Class action lawsuit progresses in London against Visa and Mastercard to challenge card payment fees affecting UK businesses
LONDON, UK 21/12/22- A significant class action lawsuit against Visa and Mastercard has progressed at the UK’s specialist competition tribunal. The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has set a date in April 2023 for a Collective Proceedings Order hearing, which will determine whether the claim – on behalf of a large number of businesses seeking damages for allegedly unlawful charges – can proceed to a full trial.
Harcus Parker, a UK-based commercial litigation law firm specialising in group litigation, competition litigation and class action lawsuits, has brought the corporate card claim at the CAT, the UK’s specialist judicial body for hearing competition cases. The class action seeks compensation for UK businesses, which were charged Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) for accepting payments using corporate* credit cards, as well as for both credit and debit cards used by overseas visitors. The CAT has published the claim on its website and has now agreed to hear the application for a Collective Proceedings Order.
Harcus Parker claims that Visa and Mastercard have forced banks to agree to a level of MIFs set by the two giants, which are “anti-competitive and unlawful”.
“We want to ensure businesses across the UK economy are properly compensated. We are making a stand against unlawful interchange fees, which should be abolished. Both the UK Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the EU have condemned this practice for consumer credit and debit cards. The UK courts should now clamp down on commercial card fees and consumer card inter-regional fees,” said Jeremy Robinson, competition litigation partner at Harcus Parker.
Mr Robinson added: “UK businesses in the travel, hospitality, retail and luxury sectors are particularly hurt by Mastercard and Visa’s multilateral interchange fees and we are pleased that this important claim has been endorsed by a number of leading trade bodies including UKHospitality and ABTA.”
Multilateral Interchange Fees make up the greater part of the service charges levied by banks on businesses when customers pay by card. Typically, for every £100 spent, up to £1.80 is charged on payments made by corporate cards, or cards used by overseas visitors – costs which are borne by companies throughout the UK.
Since 2015, EU law capped Multilateral Interchange Fees at 0.3 percent on consumer credit card transactions, and 0.2 percent for consumer debit cards. However, this cap did not apply to corporate cards or for consumer card inter-regional transactions. These sales have continued to attract fees of up to 1.8 percent per transaction. Harcus Parker accuses Mastercard and Visa of requiring banks to charge anti-competitive MIFs on businesses. These MIFs for corporate and inter-regional payments should be zero per cent, say Harcus Parker.
The class action is open to all businesses, including large international companies and local businesses, as well as some non-UK companies. Many of these businesses, particularly in the travel and hospitality sectors but also the luxury sector too, have been particularly hard hit by Brexit, Covid-19 and the current economic climate.
UK businesses are invited at this stage to register their interest online at www.commercialcardclaim.co.uk. Those businesses with an annual pre-Covid turnover of £100 million or more will be invited to opt-in to the claim. Businesses with a turnover under this threshold who have registered online will be automatically included unless they choose to opt out.
A number of trade bodies have endorsed the claim, including:
● ABTA, which represents over 3,900 leading UK travel brands;
● UK Hospitality, which represents 740 members representing many businesses across the UK;
● UKinbound, which represents 330 businesses;
● Tourism Alliance, which represents 65 associations and organisations, which in turn comprise thousands of potential claimants;
● Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents 350 businesses with over £4.5billion annual turnover and which officially endorsed the case at its 2022 annual overseas conference.
The CAT will hold a ‘certification hearing’ between 3-5 April 2023, when it will decide whether the case can go forward to trial, which is likely to take place in stages in 2024 and 2025.
The case is financed by a third party litigation funder, Bench Walk Advisers, and is fully insured.
*Corporate cards are a type of commercial card, sometimes known as a company or business card.
The served claims can be found on the Competition Appeal Tribunal website:
Harcus Parker is a commercial litigation firm. It specialises in bringing and defending complex claims, often involving large groups of claimants. Founded by Damon Parker in 2019, the firm is a recognised market leader in group litigation, case management and litigation funding.