Kroger, a major grocery chain, and six other major merchants yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against VISA over its interchange fee practices. The lawsuit alleges horizontal price fixing by VISA and its members in the setting of interchange rates and charges VISA with creating and imposing rules and restrictions that preclude merchants from being able to negotiate lower fees. Kroger says credit and debit interchange fees have increased 11 times over the past five years and currently cost the firm about $350 million annually. Kroger noted that in 2003, for the first time ever, electronic payments comprised more than 50% of Kroger’s sales. Today, over 60% of Kroger’s overall transactions are made via credit or debit cards. Joining Kroger in the lawsuit are Ahold, Albertson’s, Eckerd, Maxi Drug, Safeway, and Walgreen. MasterCard was not named in yesterday’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. A copy of the lawsuit is available via CardFlash Online ([www.cardflash.com]).