It was announced on 17th April 2019 that thanks to senior judges at the court of appeal, a £14bn lawsuit against Mastercard has been revived.
What does the lawsuit claim?
In 2017, former chief ombudsman of the financial ombudsman service Walter Merricks brought a claim against Mastercard, alleging that 46 million people paid higher prices in shops than they should have, because of high card processing fees. The charges (referred to as 'interchange fees') were charged between 1992 and 2008 and it was claimed that these were anti-competitive and broke EU law.
The European Commission had already decided in 2017 that Mastercard's interchange fees were in breach of competition law but the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) saw it fit to throw out Merricks' claim. Senior judges at the court of appeal however have since found that the CAT had used the wrong test to check if Mr Merricks’ action could go ahead, and so have agreed to revive the case.
What did Walter Merricks say?
Walter Merricks said "Originally of course, the retailers suffered the damage, but the retailers naturally passed on those costs to consumers in higher prices and that's what I say we have to recover for the consumers who were damaged - 46 million of them."
What did Mastercard say?
Scott Abrahams, senior vice president at Mastercard UK said the company had a "fundamental dispute on the basis of the claim," and so refused to settle the case and they will continue to fight it.
How many people are affected and who can claim?
It has been estimated that up to 46 million people have been affected by the higher charges, meaning that theoretically, the £14bn could amount to a claim of around £300 per person. The truth is that we will only know if consumers will actually receive any money once the final ruling has been made and that could be some way off yet. The case continues and so it remains to be seen just how long it will take to find a final resolution, whether that be a ruling or some sort of settlement from Mastercard.
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