Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Retail group decries proposed $7.25 billion settlement over card swipe fees

NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation is opposing a proposed $7.25 billion settlement that Visa, MasterCard and major banks have agreed to pay retailers for alleged fee fixing.

The retail trade association said Tuesday that its board has given approval for it to go to court to try to block the settlement. The NRF, which is not a party to the lawsuit that led to the settlement, says it is unsure whether outside groups will be allowed to intervene, or if the case qualifies as a class action.

The NRF says it believes that the proposed settlement will not stop swipe fees from continuing to rise, which will hurt both retailers and shoppers, and that it will prevent any future legal challenges.

The NRF represents more than 9,000 retailers of various sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the U.S. and 45 other countries.

"The settlement was by the credit card companies and for the credit card companies. This will not help merchants or customers," said Mallory Duncan, senior vice president and general counsel for the NRF.

The NRF's action comes as other retailers including Wal-Mart Stores and Target, which are not part of the settlement, have previously spoken out against the settlement. And several trade groups that were involved in the suit, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, have vowed to fight the settlement. The convenience store group doesn't think the deal adequately addresses the issue of how much control Visa, MasterCard and banks have over merchants.

In July, Visa, MasterCard and the banks settled a lawsuit brought by several retailers that claimed card issuers conspired to fix merchants' fees for accepting credit cards. Retailers have long complained about the billions of dollars in "swipe" or "interchange" fees that they have had to pay, which average about 2 percent of the price of a purchase.

Under the settlement, stores will be allowed to charge customers more if they pay with a credit card. The settlement covers only U.S. transactions.

Credit card companies have long defended the fees they charge stores. They say stores benefit from being able to accept credit and debit cards from customers, who often spend more when they're using plastic instead of cash or checks.

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