Visa and MasterCard face more legal action over interchange fees

2 July 2013

A collection of around 30 US retailers, including Amazon and 7-Eleven, have filed a fresh lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard in the latest round of an on-going legal battle between card schemes and US merchants over interchange fees.

Years of wrangling culminated last summer in US retailers reaching a US$7.25bn class action settlement with the card schemes, but thousands of companies have subsequently pulled out of the accord and decided to fight on.

According to a report by Bloomberg, one group of retailers has now filed a new complaint, arguing that “once Visa and MasterCard acquired substantial market power over merchants, they maintained it by forcing merchants to pay even higher interchange fees to continue to fund these price-fixing schemes”.

A spokeswoman for lobbying group the Electronic Payments Coalition was quoted by Bloomberg as responding that the “tired arguments” had already been covered and had they had “any merit or strength, they would have been included in the final settlement”.

Other suits from groups of retailers are also in progress, while Visa has responded by launching its own litigation against Wal-Mart for rejecting the initial settlement.

News Analysis
Europe has also got in on the act when the EC declared last year that the cross-border credit card interchange fees imposed by Visa Europe restrict competition between banks and infringe antitrust rules.

Not only do the card schemes face legal threats to their business models on both sides of the Atlantic therefore, but they also now have new technology-based competitors in the mobile point-of-sale (MPoS) space to worry about as Square, iZettle, PayPal Here and many others target small business card payment with mobile-enabled payment devices typically charging much cheaper rates than Visa or MasterCard do. MyBank could also eventually pose a disintermediation threat and the disgruntled US retailers have already threatened to collectively launch their own m-commerce solution.

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