A Federal Court has preliminarily approved a proposed settlement of a maximum of approximately $6.24 billion and a minimum of at least $5.54 billion in a class action lawsuit, called In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, MDL 1720 (MKB) (JO). The lawsuit is about claims that merchants paid excessive fees to accept Visa and Mastercard cards because Visa and Mastercard, individually, and together with their respective member banks, violated the antitrust laws. A number of NATSO members who may be a part of this class have sought guidance as to how this process will proceed and what steps they should take as part of this process.
Following preliminary approval, merchants will receive official notice of the settlement and will need to decide whether they want to: (1) receive funds from the class settlement; (2) opt out of the settlement completely; or (3) object to the terms of the settlement in order to try to convince the court to reject it. Each option has its own pros and cons, and merchants may want to consult with their own counsel before making any final decisions. Although all companies should consult counsel before proceeding, as a general matter companies that do not plan to file their own independent lawsuit going forward have decided that it makes the most sense to accept the settlement money associated with this litigation.
Merchants that do not opt out of the settlement will be considered part of the settling class (assuming the settlement is approved) and, following final approval of the settlement, will receive a claim form. The claim form must be returned consistent with its instructions for merchants to receive a portion of the settlement. If a merchant does not return a claim form, it will not get any money from the settlement.
Following final approval, merchants also will be able to request claim forms from the class administrator by:
- Calling the toll-free number: 1-800-625-6440
- Writing to: Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement, P.O. Box 2530, Portland, OR 97208-2530; or
- Emailing: info@PaymentCardSettlement.com
Merchants who choose to opt out of the settlement will not receive any of the settlement payment, but can individually sue the defendants at their own expense. A decision to opt out will need to be made in writing consistent with the instructions in the notice to merchants. If merchants representing more than 25% of all U.S. payments volume choose to opt out, then the entire settlement may be terminated.
Merchants who want the court to reject the settlement may file an objection and also may seek to appear in person to tell the court why they do not agree with the settlement.
The official court-authorized settlement website is: https://www.paymentcardsettlement.com/en
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