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The antitrust case brought against MasterCard and Visa USA by Wal-Mart and a consortium of other retailers is scheduled to begin today..

The retailers claim that Visa and MasterCard force them to accept their debit cards by requiring their acceptance as a condition for continued use of their credit card systems. The debit cards issued by MasterCard and Visa have higher transaction fees, and therefore, the argument goes, they cost the retailer and the consumer more money.

The trial has been seven years in the making, and there may be no quick end in sight. A Visa spokesman says that even if the company loses the case, it will appeal, and that process could drag on until 2007.

Potential damages in the case have been estimated to be as much as $39 billion.
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