The Bank of Italy has ordered a halt to further issuance of American Express credit cards in Italy.

The central bank took the action after inspections revealed compliance gaps related to rules covering usury, money laundering and transparency.

The suspension was an "inevitable step" after the inspections found irregularities, a representative for the Bank of Italy said Friday.

Existing credit cards issued by American Express Co.'s local unit are not affected by the ruling, which goes into effect today.

An Amex spokeswoman acknowledged the Bank of Italy's action and said it was cooperating.

The company said it is upgrading its information technology systems and other procedures to "adhere more closely to the regulations applicable to payments service providers."

The central bank probe was triggered by a judicial investigation into client complaints about interest rates charged by their credit card suppliers. A similar suspension was ordered last year for Diners Club cards in Italy.

Diners Club said in a statement that it also was working on upgrading its information technology systems. Diners Club International Ltd. is a unit of Discover Financial Services.

The Bank of Italy is pressuring financial services providers to present the actual costs of their products more clearly.