Credit Card Settlement Appeal Delayed Until Fall

The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that an appeal of the proposed swipe fee settlement should wait until after objections to the settlement are filed and heard next fall. That means that settlement notices to retailers across the country can continue to be distributed, and that retailers will have the opportunity to opt out of the monetary portion of the case and/or object to the proposed settlement. Notices will be sent to retailers who accepted Visa and/or MasterCard at any time between Jan. 1, 2004 and Nov. 27, 2012. Even if retailers submitted a declaration objecting to the proposed settlement last fall, they must respond to the notice and submit something in writing again if they want to opt-out of or object to the proposed settlement. 

The majority of named plaintiffs, including NATSO, and approximately 1,200 additional merchants, oppose the proposed settlement and retailer groups have filed papers objecting to preliminary approval of the proposed settlement. 

As previously reported by NATSO, class counsel accepted a $7.2 billion settlement offer from the credit card companies. NATSO and most of the other plaintiffs objected to the settlement because it does nothing to fix the broken system, with the only winners under the settlement agreement being lawyers and credit card companies. If the agreement achieves final approval, Visa and MasterCard will be legally protected against future lawsuits for anti-competitive behavior. Finally, even if Visa and MasterCard pay out $7.2 billion dollars to settle the case, the settlement agreement does not prevent them from hiking swipe fees to recoup the settlement costs, as well as the significant fees paid to class counsel if the settlement agreement achieves final approval. Unless the proposed settlement is rejected, retailers will be forced to accept the inadequate rules changes and give the credit card industry the unbounded ability to abuse retailers in the future. 

NATSO reported last month that part of the proposed settlement already took effect on Jan. 27 even though the settlement has not received final approval. Merchants are now able to add surcharges to some credit card interchange fees, but the ability to do so is very limited.

Editor's Note: NATSO has developed an online memo and other documents to provide NATSO members with the information they need to consider their options related to the settlement. Members should review the information carefully and feel free to contact Lisa Mullings with any questions they may have. Retailers who desire to opt out or object to the settlement must take action before May 28, 2013.   

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This article originally ran in NATSO News Weekly (NNW), NATSO's member only weekly electronic newsletter. NNW is packed with the latest updates on government and business issues affecting the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

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