By: Hannah Walker, Vice President, Political Affairs, Food Marketing Institute 

20151208-FMI-626-WEBI’m not an antitrust lawyer, but this year it feels like I play one on T.V., as they say. For decades here at FMI, we have advocated and fought to tackle the oppressive swipe or interchange fees our members are charged every time someone pays with a debit or credit card. In addition to our regulatory and legislative work, FMI has been monitoring and reporting on an antitrust case filed fourteen years ago by a number of retailers against Visa and MasterCard and the largest issuing banks. 

Let’s briefly rewind. In 2005, before I had a smartphone and still watched movies on DVD, a group of retailers sued the card networks (Visa and Mastercard) claiming antitrust violations that illegally inflated swipe fees, or interchange, that merchants pay on every purchase transaction and which banks use to fund consumers’ credit card rewards. 

Fast-forward to September 2018, the U.S. District Court preliminarily approved a proposed monetary settlement of a maximum of approximately $6.24 billion and a minimum of at least $5.54 billion in the class action lawsuit. The U.S. District Court previously divided the merchants’ claims into two separate classes, one that focused on monetary damages and the other on making changes to Visa and Mastercard’s rules and business practices. This settlement is for the class focused on monetary damages, the litigation on the card rules and practices continues. Under the settlement, Visa, Mastercard, and the bank defendants have agreed to pay billions in class settlement funds. 

Retailers included in this lawsuit have the legal rights and options explained below:

  1. Exclude themselves from the Settlement Class. Merchants that exclude themselves will not get any money from this settlement but can individually sue the Defendants on their own at their own expense, if they want to.  Merchants that wish to exclude themselves must make a written request, place it in an envelope, and mail it with postage prepaid and postmarked no later than July 23, 2019, or send it by overnight delivery shown as sent by July 23, 2019, to Class Administrator, Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement, P.O. Box 2530, Portland, OR 97208-2530. 
  2. Object to the settlement. The deadline to object is July 23, 2019.  To learn how to object, visit www.PaymentCardSettlement.com or call 1-800-625-6440.  Note: Merchants that exclude themselves from the Settlement Class cannot object to the settlement.
  3. Eventually file a claim for payment. To receive payment, merchants will be required to fill out a claim form. Claims cannot yet be filed.  If the Court grants final approval, and if that approval is affirmed on any appeals, the Court will approve a claim form and set a claim deadline. Claim forms will then be mailed to all identified merchants.  When the time comes to file claims, merchants can submit them via mail or email, or may file online at www.PaymentCardSettlement.com.

To learn more about the case and terms of the settlement visit the case’s settlement page and FMI’s settlement webinar or contact Hannah Walker.

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