Wal-Mart sues Visa over interchange fees

Wal-Mart Stores filed suit against Visa this week in U.S. District Court (Fayetteville) claiming the defendant conspired with large banks to fix interchange fees charged to merchants between Jan 1, 2004 and Nov. 27, 2012. 

Much of the retail industry, including Wal-Mart, rejected a $7.25 billion settlement last fall between Visa and Mastercard over the interchange fees saying it did nothing to disclose the hidden fees or otherwise create transparency to encourage competition that would lead to lower fees for merchants and their customers. (Interchange fees are charged to merchants by the card providers each time a consumer pays with a debit or credit card.)

“Wal-Mart and all other merchants were subjected to rules and practices that harmed competition, suppressed fraud preventing technology in the U.S., and inflated interchange fees charged to merchants when customers used their credit and debit cards. As a result, many merchants were forced to pass on some of these artificially high fees to consumers,” said Wal-Mart corporate spokesman Randy Hargrove.

The suit claims that Visa raised interchange fees by 234% between 1998 to 2006. The complaint also alleges Visa’s anticompetitive conduct generated more than $350 billion in interchange fees for the colluding issuers during the damages period — fees that Wal-Mart and other retailers paid and continue to pay.

Wal-Mart’s suit comes on the heels of Visa’s complaint against the retail giant filed in June 2013 after the retailer opted out of the $7.25 settlement. The Visa suit sought to block Wal-Mart from pursuing more damages with an injunction.

“We’ve asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to dismiss the unwarranted suit VISA filed against Wal-Mart in retaliation for opting out and objecting to an unfair interchange settlement agreement,” Hargrove said.

Wal-Mart estimates its injuries are in excess of $5 billion.

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“We continue to oppose the proposed credit card interchange fee settlement, which would give the defendants a sweeping release that poses considerable risk of abuse and does nothing to change the broken market,” Hargrove said.

Wal-Mart and much of the retail industry continue to support innovation around payment technologies that better guard against fraud. The retailer said those new payment technologies could be stifled if the settlement with Visa and Mastercard stands.

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