Previously Banned Fees Charged to Consumers Now Permissible for Visa and MasterCard Transactions


In November 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York preliminarily approved a settlement agreement in the In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation. As a result, merchants may now charge their Visa and MasterCard customers supplemental fees to recover the cost incurred when credit cards are used as the form of payment.

The $7.25 billion settlement, reached in July 2012 between credit card issuers and merchants, is the end result of a class action filed in 2005. The plaintiffs alleged that card companies conspired with major banks to fix fees at an artificially high level that are charged to merchants when customers pay with credit cards. Some defendant banks issued the Visa and MasterCard branded payment cards to customers while other defendant banks acted as intermediaries between the merchant and the issuing banks. The interchange fees at the center of the case were paid by merchants when customers used Visa or MasterCard credit cards in their stores. Surcharges to recover such costs have customarily been prohibited by Visa and MasterCard under their respective merchant agreements. As part of this settlement, Visa and MasterCard were required to implement specified rule changes, including the ability for merchants in the United States and U.S. territories to surcharge credit card transactions beginning January 27, 2013.

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