Business

Mastercard faces £14bn card fee claim

Mastercard cards Image copyright Reuters

A £14bn legal claim has been filed against Mastercard on behalf of UK consumers seeking damages for anti-competitive card fees.

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that regulators were right to condemn the cost of its interchange fees - the fees retailers pay banks to process card payments.

Mastercard lowered its fees but now faces a claim for damages for 16 years of charging from 1992 to 2008.

It has vowed to fight the action.

"Now that the claim has been filed, we will take time to review it in detail. However we continue to firmly disagree with the basis of this claim and we intend to oppose it vigorously," Mastercard said.

"We deliver real value through the benefits of security, convenience and consumer protection, and we are committed to investing in our payment services in order to continue to meet the rapidly evolving needs of all our customers."

'Watershed moment'

Mastercard is the second-largest credit and debit card provider after Visa.

It fought a seven-year legal battle against the decision by the EU's competition watchdog, which ended with its defeat at the European court.

It is claimed that consumers faced higher costs than they should, as retailers passed on the unnecessary high interchanges fees in their prices.

Former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks is leading the claim, with the backing of law firm Quinn Emanuel, under the new Consumer Rights Act. The first stage is to take it to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in London.

"The filing of this claim is the first step towards consumers obtaining compensation for what Mastercard did," Mr Merricks said.

"I am confident that the CAT will authorise the claim to go forward, and I look forward to the opportunity to present our case. This is a watershed moment for consumer redress in this country."

'Better than cash'

Speaking to Radio 5 Live, Mark Barnett of Mastercard said that using card payments had reduced costs for consumers overall because it was cheaper than using cash, as there was no need to print notes and transport them across the country.

"UK consumers have benefitted enormously from being able to use card payments, for example buying on the internet. If the goods don't arrive, you're protected," he said.

If successful at this stage, a full trial hearing is not expected until 2018.

Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, consumers living in the UK would automatically be included in the claim for damages and ultimately, if successful, be eligible for compensation.

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