published Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Retail group says it opposes card fee settlement

  • photo
    In this April 22, 2005 file photo, signs for MasterCard and Visa credit cards are shown at the entrance to a New York coffee shop.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation is opposing a proposed $7.25 billion settlement that Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. 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, 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 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 retailers of various sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the U.S. and 45 countries overseas.

"The proposal is a lose-lose-lose for merchants, consumers and competition," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Representatives for Visa and Mastercard could not be immediately reached for comment.

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 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.

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.

But some retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. have previously spoken out against the settlement. And the National Association of Convenience Stores has said that it would fight the settlement because the group doesn't think the settlement adequately addresses the issue of how much control Visa, MasterCard and banks have over merchants.

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