U.S. top court rejects bid to revive $7.25 billion credit card settlement

Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:51am EDT
 
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a bid by retailers to revive a $7.25 billion antitrust settlement they reached with Visa Inc and Mastercard Inc over claims the card networks improperly fixed credit and debit card fees.

The high court left in place a 2016 lower court decision that threw out the settlement on the basis that it was unfair to retailers that stood to receive no payments and derive no other benefits.

The brief Supreme Court order noted that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito did not participate in consideration of whether to take up the appeal. No reason was given.

The settlement had been intended to resolve claims that merchants were overcharged on interchange fees, or "swipe fees," when shoppers used credit or debit cards, and were barred from directing customers toward cheaper means of payment.

The deal had been the largest all-cash U.S. antitrust settlement, although its value shrank to about $5.7 billion after roughly 8,000 retailers "opted out."

The New York-based 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the accord was unfair to retailers that stood to receive no payments and, in the court's view, little or no benefit at all. It also decertified the case as a class action.

The circuit court's decision was a blow to the credit card industry, which hoped the settlement would end a decade of litigation brought on behalf of about 12 million retailers against Visa, MasterCard and banks that issue their cards.

Companies including Amazon.com Inc, Costco Wholesale Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc opposed the settlement and challenged it on appeal. Card issuers American Express Co and Discover Financial Services also objected to the settlement.   Continued...

 
MasterCard and VISA credit cards are seen in this picture illustration taken June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/Illustration