Visa, MasterCard, banks in $7.25 billion retail settlement

Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:32pm EDT
 
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By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Visa Inc, MasterCard Inc and banks that issue their credit cards have agreed to a $7.25 billion settlement with U.S. retailers in a lawsuit over the fixing of credit and debit card fees in what could be the largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history.

The settlement, if approved by a judge, would resolve dozens of lawsuits filed by retailers in 2005. The card companies and banks would also allow stores to start charging customers extra for using certain credit cards in an effort to steer them toward cheaper forms of payment.

The settlement papers were filed on Friday in Brooklyn federal court.

Swipe fees - charges to cover processing credit and debit payments - are set by the card companies and deducted from the transaction by the banks that issue the cards, essentially passing on the cost to merchants, the lawsuits said.

The proposed settlement involves a payment to a class of stores of $6 billion from Visa, MasterCard and more than a dozen of the country's largest banks who issue the companies' cards. The card companies have also agreed to reduce swipe fees by the equivalent of 10 basis points for eight months for a total consideration to stores valued at about $1.2 billion, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The deal calls for merchants to be allowed to negotiate collectively over the swipe fees, also known as interchange fees.

Merchants would also be required to disclose information about card fees to customers, and credit card surcharges would be subject to a cap, according to the settlement papers. Surcharge rules would not affect the 10 states that currently prohibit that practice, which include California, New York and Texas.

An additional $525 million will be paid to stores suing individually, according to the documents.   Continued...

 
MasterCard and VISA credit cards are seen in this illustrative photograph taken in Hong Kong December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Bobby Yip