WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve Board announced Tuesday that it would adjust the pricing of its automated clearing house services in order to make it easier for private companies that offer similar services to compete.

The Fed's ACH system processes credit and debit transactions originated electronically, including direct deposit payroll checks, corporate payments to vendors, and mortgage and other consumer payments.

Private-sector companies that sell clearing house services are required to route many of the debit and credit transactions they process through the Fed's system. For years, they have complained that early deadlines for deposits and the Fed's fee structure for handling such transactions are unfair and harmful to the banking industry because they stifle competition.

The Fed said it will negotiate new deposit deadlines and new fees with representatives of the private-sector service providers. A press release from the central bank said the new deadlines would be adopted by June and a new pricing structure by September.

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