A slim majority of the named plaintiffs representing merchants in the antitrust lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard over interchange, or "swipe," fees now officially oppose the settlement proposed this summer.
As of last Friday, a grand total of 10 of the 19 plaintiffs in the case announced that they would ask U.S. District Judge John Gleeson to reject the settlement. Affiliated Foods Midwest, Coborn’s, Inc., D’Agostino Supermarkets, Jetro Holdings, Inc. and Jetro Cash & Carry Enterprises, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), NATSO, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) all announced their opposition, hoping to rebuff reports that Visa and MasterCard, along with an ever-dwindling collection of settlement supporters, would ask Gleason to approve the agreement before the end of this week.
These plaintiffs join a growing chorus of other retail and merchant advocates arguing against the settlement, the terms of which allow merchants to pass on their interchange fees to their customers via surcharge. In addition to a recent majority of class plaintiffs, high profile retail groups like the National Retail Federation (NRF) and big-name retailers like Walmart, Target and Lowe's have all indicated their plans to fight the deal.
"The people asking the court to approve the proposed settlement simply do not represent the interests of most merchants, we do," said Hank Armour, president and CEO of NACS."The proposal represents a minority view and must be rejected."
Opponents have repeatedly said that the thing missing from the proposed settlement is a mechanism to allow merchants to challenge how interchange fees are set. Furthermore, the proposal would release Visa and MasterCard from several future antitrust claims and lawsuits, making it harder for merchants to mount any more efforts to fight the interchange process.
Even with preliminary approval, the process of full approval is expected to stretch well into 2013. Should Judge Gleeson side with the opposition, that process could end up taking even longer.
- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer