Swipe-Fee Flare-Up: Groups Fight Settlement In Court

Major retail associations, along with numerous merchants, have filed briefs opposing a $7.2 billion settlement with credit card companies, which they say limits their legal rights.

Don’t get too distracted by the big number.

According to some major associations — including the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, and the National Restaurant Association — along with nearly 1,200 merchants and other trade groups, a $7.2 billion settlement with Visa and MasterCard over interchange fees isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The release, given its scope, will make the competitive problems in the marketplace worse for merchants, not better.

They collectively delivered a brief [PDF] to U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, asking him to reject the settlement.

“Fundamentally, these merchants and their representatives object to the settlement because it will neither introduce transparency nor give merchants the ability to inject competition in a market that has not functioned competitively for decades,” the brief states. “And the release, given its scope, will make the competitive problems in the marketplace worse for merchants, not better.”

The groups and merchants — including big players like Walmart and IKEA — have been vocal about their displeasure with the agreement, which would settle an antitrust case brought by a class of merchants who alleged that financial firms colluded to set swipe fees that retailers pay when customers use credit cards. The settlement includes $1.2 billion to temporarily lower swipe fees for retailers but doesn’t include more fundamental reforms.

The opponents are also concerned that the settlement will shield the credit card companies from future lawsuits.

“The declarations from about 1,200 merchants, small and large, from every corner of the country and every type of merchant, speak volumes about the fact that something is very seriously wrong with this deal,” Jeff Shinder, one of the lawyers for the named plaintiffs in the case, told Reuters.

In recent years, associations have made headway in reducing swipe-fee rates. The National Restaurant Association, while still favoring lower fees, recently praised reforms passed in Congress last October that put the federal government in charge of setting reasonable interchange fees for retailers.

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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