Earlier this year, the district courts upheld the more than $5.5 million antitrust class-action settlement on behalf of merchants that accept Visa and MasterCard payments in their businesses. It was claimed that they paid excessive interchange fees and assessments for accepting card payments because of an alleged conspiracy. The case has been bounced around the court system for a time period exceeding fifteen years, and finally, businesses can now begin to see notices detailing the process of filing claims to get a piece of the proposed award. Once merchants start to see the alerts, they have an expected 3-5 months to file claims for their share of the multi-billion dollar award. This settlement is by no means the first of its kind; it is however one of the largest awards.
Interchange are fees paid to the card-issuing banks to offset a portion of the risk undertaken and the cost associated with it. Some industry experts would agree that the interchange fees paid are simply a price paid for the ability to accept non-cash payments such as debit and credit cards. Most merchants and banks that accept non-cash payments pay some form of interchange that could make up a significant portion of the cost of card acceptance.
The settlement claims that businesses and individuals that accepted VISA and MasterCard brands for products and services during the time period from January 2004 and January 2019 may be eligible for reimbursement and/or award. The settlement found VISA and MasterCard overcharged retailers and businesses on interchange fees and other costs when consumers elected to purchase goods and services with debit and credit cards. It was also found that the card brands routinely prevented business owners from steering consumers to lower-cost means of payment to avoid such fees. Those businesses will be notified of rights and options based on the court’s findings. These businesses will also learn if they are in some way ineligible to receive proceeds. Of course, those parties participating in the settlement and expecting award(s) would be barred from seeking additional claims within the multi-year settlement period and also for five more years after the settlement became final. These stipulations are detailed in the court findings and can be reviewed on multiple news outlets.
The settlement received final approval in March of this year and it remains unclear if any parties will seek to appeal. Those entities who believe they are eligible for compensation in the suit are encouraged to seek legal advice to understand the opportunity as well as any downside to participating in the payout.
Those individuals and/or businesses believing that they may be eligible to become part of the suit should be aware of the next steps. Many will be contacted by their payment processor and/or acquirer with advice for taking action. For those interested in more information or to pursue a settlement are encouraged to call (800)625-6440. Details can also be requested by mail at: Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement, P.O. Box 2530, Portland, OR 97208-2530, or by email at: info@PaymentCardSettlement.com. Those companies and persons already reporting settlements have received as much as $119. It is also worth mentioning that some recoveries may take several years to be received. These items may dissuade some from even seeking a return.
Those clients of Integrity Business Resources and their affiliates should expect to be notified via statement advice or by email of their options as a result of the settlement. Those parties are also encouraged to use the resources mentioned in this blog for additional information and direction.