NRF Appeals Credit Interchange Settlement
As expected, the National Retail Federation appealed the U.S. District Court decision that locked in a settlement of long-standing retailer complaints about credit card interchange.
The court-approved agreement came at the end of multi-year litigation over allegations the major card brands' credit card interchange system violated U.S. anti-trust law. Even though the negotiating parties included representatives from retailers, card issuers and card brands, settlement proved controversial with some retailers, including the NRF.
“NRF is filing the appeal to overturn the flawed credit card swipe fee settlement,” said General Counsel Mallory Duncan in litigation documents. 'The settlement does nothing to reform the price-fixing payments system that has let credit card swipe fees skyrocket over the past decade and nothing to keep them from continuing to soar in the future. Instead of lowering fees, the card industry’s settlement proposes that merchants pass them along to consumers in the form of surcharges. That is absolutely the opposite of what retailers sought, and major retailers have soundly rejected surcharging.”
Duncan took particular issue with the retailers who participated in the settlement, arguing that they did not represent enough retailers.
“There has been no agreement to this settlement by the retail industry. Instead, there’s a settlement with nine individual retailers whose views are not representative of the collective industry,” Duncan argued. “A majority of the original plaintiffs in the case repudiated the settlement as soon as they saw its terms. The nation’s largest retailers have spoken out against it, and close to 8,000 retailers and merchants have formally rejected the proposal. This is an abuse of the class action system and should never have been approved.
“The only people pleased with this settlement are Visa and MasterCard, because it means they can continue collecting tens of billions of dollars in hidden fees, the class action lawyers who stand to collect half a billion dollars in fees without fixing the problem, and a lower court, which has cleared a time-consuming case off its docket, but has done a serious disservice to merchants and the public in the process.”
For its part, the Electronic Payments Coalition took a cool view of the appeal notice, arguing that the firms bringing the appeal are the ones who do not represent most retailers.
“After nearly a decade of negotiations, the court has determined that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved,” Coalition Spokesman Sam Fabens said in a statement. “This is simply a political ploy by a few big box retailers – for whom enough is never enough – that disregards the millions of retailers who are supportive of the settlement. These same tired arguments were raised over and over during the negotiations and would have been included in the final terms if they had any merit.”