Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, filed a lawsuit last week against Visa, Inc., the world's largest card network, seeking damages for alleged antitrust violations in the form of inflated interchange fees. Wal-Mart estimates that Visa's price fixing cost it at least $5 billion, and since the antitrust case is being filed in federal court, the Clayton Antitrust Act permits Wal-Mart to seek three times that amount in damages, meaning a successful suit could result in a $15 billion penalty for Visa.
The case is the latest development in the fight between merchants and card networks over interchange, or "swipe," fees. After US District Judge John Gleeson approved a controversial settlement last year several large retailers opted out of the deal in order to pursue their own lawsuits. While the agreement ended an eight-year antitrust case against Visa, MasterCard and several financial institutions and granted merchants a $5.7 billion cash settlement and the right to surcharge, it also barred merchants from ever suing the card networks again for similar activity. Having opted out, Wal-Mart is now seeking what it believes is due.
Visa previously sued Wal-Mart in June in an attempt to bind them to the terms of the original settlement, after Wal-Mart "made plain" that it would file this most recent complaint.
Look for more on this story and others in tomorrow's edition of NACM's eNews.
- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer