Recently, an antitrust lawsuit that resulted in a $7 billion settlement was challenged. The judgment required credit card companies including Visa and MasterCard to pay a $7 billion settlement to retailers for past abuses in setting swipe fees. While this might seem like a very large settlement, the National Retail Federation is arguing it’s not good enough.
Lawyers for the National Retail Federation argue $7 billion amounts to pennies on the dollar. Not only is the financial compensation not enough, it also prevents retail organizations from being able to file further lawsuits against Visa and MasterCard. These retail organizations say Visa and MasterCard use “cartel-like” strategies to set the fees they charge for swiping cards.
Jeffrey Shinder, a lawyer who represents different trade organizations, recently requested access to all of the records used in the antitrust lawsuit. Visa has said some of the records are considered to be highly classified, and they cannot release them to the lawyers. Shinder argues they simply want access to the same files they already had when they were in the middle of the trial. So far, this has lead to a standoff that remains to be resolved.
At the heart of the matter are allegations that Visa and MasterCard are colluding with banks to set the fees they charge retailers. This has cut into the profitability of credit card and debit card transactions for merchants. As credit card swipe fees continue to rise, it has become more challenging for retailers to justify price increases to their customers.
According to the legislation, if the credit card companies pay the $7 billion settlement, then they will not be able to be held liable for the same issue again. This limits what retailers can do and allows the credit card companies to charge anything they want for these swipe fees, without legal recourse. Because of this, the National Retail Federation has rejected the deal for now and hopes to take further legal action against Visa and Mastercard.
What will happen in this case remains to be seen. The judge in the case has asked attorneys for the National Retail Federation to restate their request for the documents they want. Until they receive the documents, the issue is at an impasse. Will the nation’s retailers prevail and take control of their credit card processing fees, or will the credit card companies come out on top again? No one knows for sure, but it will definitely have a major impact on the way that payment processing is handled in the future, and ultimately how profitable retail companies and restaurants can be when they are accepting credit card payments from their customers.