The Brazilian transaction processor VisaNet is being investigated for possible anticompetitive practices by Brazil's Justice Ministry.
The probe is focused on VisaNet's exclusive right to accredit businesses to accept cards carrying the Visa logo, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement last week.
This "practice" is against consumer interests and "substantially" reduces competition in the industry, the ministry said in the statement.
As a preventive measure, the ministry's Economic Law Department has suspended VisaNet's exclusivity and will allow other companies to accredit businesses to accept Visa cards.
"VisaNet's exclusivity was blocking competition in the system," Ana Paula Martinez, director of Economic Protection and Defense at the Justice Ministry, said in a telephone interview.
"There are strong signs of anticompetitive actions," she said. "Profits were being unjustly transferred from consumers."
VisaNet, formally Cia. Brasileira de Meios de Pagamento, said it will cooperate with the Justice Ministry and will consider making an appeal, according to an e-mailed statement.