Canada's Competition Bureau has rejected Interac Association's request to become a for-profit company, saying the country's sole debit card network is not yet threatened by Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc.

Those payment card brands have announced plans to introduce their own PIN-debit initiatives in Canada, possibly as soon as the second quarter.

However, "Visa and MasterCard have not significantly entered the debit card marketplace," a bureau representative said this week.

Interac, of Toronto, operates Canada's only PIN-debit network. The bureau rejected Feb. 12 its request to change its structure.

But the bureau, an independent government agency that enforces competition, left the door open to review its decision if there are any significant changes in Canada's debit market.

Mark O'Connell, Interac's president and CEO, said in a press release that he expects the bureau to change its mind eventually. "We have always believed that arriving at an effective business model requires a number of changes to the consent order beyond a for-profit status, particularly in the areas of governance, funding and our organizational structure," he said.

Nearly 60% of Canada's card transactions involve debit cards, which last year were used to initiate 4 billion transactions, according to Interac. All debit card transactions in Canada require the use of PINs.

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