To the Editor:
The March 24 article on the federal antitrust case against Visa and MasterCard ("Justice Department Seeks More Papers in Suit Against MC, Visa," page 15) was most interesting. It appears that the Justice case is becoming more focused, and clearly debit is part of that focus.
Yet the remedies being listed seem curiouser and curiouser. First, on the issue of the exclusion of American Express and Discover, it is unclear how the consumer would benefit.
It is also unclear how the consumer would benefit from a realignment of major issuers; this would cause havoc, inconvenience, and loss of choice.
It should be noted that Lloyd Constantine, an attorney quoted in your article, served as New York assistant attorney general a decade or so ago and played a major role in killing Entree, a joint debit program proposed by MasterCard and Visa.
That action prevented the establishment of a rational electronic banking system, gave the MasterCard/Visa bureaucrats exactly what they wanted, benefited consumers not a whit, and shared some responsibility for the off- line debit programs that Mr. Constantine now opposes. Certainly Entree had shortcomings, but it was a wonderful opportunity to shape an excellent electronic banking system.
We hope the Department of Justice appreciates the important role it can play in shaping such a system.
Because it is intended to replace cash and checks, it seems fundamental that consideration be given to the important roles of banks, to safety and security, and to competition among card processors and issuing banks.
Meanwhile, banks must be aware of the important role debit cards will play in the competition for customers and deposits.
So we have high hopes that the remedy won't be worse than the disease.
Joseph E. Wallace
System B Division, Chicago