A unit of Electronic Payment Services Inc., the joint venture among four regional banks to process electronic funds transfers has filed suit against the NYCE automated teller machine network, alleging antitrust violations.

EPS and NYCE both offer electronic funds transfer services to merchants and financial institutions in the New Jersey, New York, and New England markets, EPS also operates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, says that NYCE improperly terminated an agreement with Buypass -- an EPS merchant processing unit based in Atlanta -- that allowed Buypass to process debit card point-of-sale transactions for NYCE members.

According to the complaint, NYCE has refused to allow Buypass to process NYCE debit card transactions ever since Buypass was acquired by CoreStates Financial Corp. in 1991.

At that time, CoreStates was the sole owner of MAC, a Philadelphia-based bank card network that competes directly with NYCE. Last year, Corestates joined Bank One, Society Corp., and PNC Financial to form EPS. EPS has two units, MAC and Buypass.

Buypass charges that merchants and financial institutions asked NYCE to certify Buypass as a processor of debit transactions but NYCE refused.

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