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The National Restaurant Association (NRA) announced a decision to continue its strenuous objection to a proposed settlement in ongoing litigation over credit card interchange swipe fees. The NRA objects to the proposed settlement because it does not fix the broken swipe fee marketplace, severely limits merchants’ ability to challenge unfair card network fees and practices in the future, and could have detrimental impacts on a very tenuous emerging mobile payments market.
“We believe this settlement does not fundamentally change the broken marketplace that the card companies and major banks established, and will allow them to continue to take advantage of merchants and their customers while blocking competition and choice. We hope the court will recognize that the proposed settlement agreement is flawed once it realizes the reaction from the merchant class,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the NRA.
“As a named class plaintiff in the case, and after careful consideration of the views of our members, the executive committee of the Association’s board of directors determined that we must continue to carry the message of our strong objections to the proposed settlement agreement on interchange swipe fees,” Sweeney says, adding that the Association will remain in the class as a plaintiff. “It is imperative that we are able to continue to be a voice for our members and class merchants, which is why the executive committee originally decided to authorize the Association to enter the case as a class plaintiff. It is critical that we have the opportunity to represent all restaurant owners as well as other class members at the upcoming fairness hearing – particularly those small operators who make up the vast majority of the industry and the class.”
The judge in the case has stated that he will not give greater weight to those class plaintiffs who object and opt out of the settlement, as opposed to those plaintiffs who object and remain in the class. Final decisions on the stance that plaintiffs and all other class merchants will take were due to be filed in court by May 28.
The Association joined the litigation in 2006, as a named class plaintiff in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in New York against MasterCard, Visa, and their member banks. Negotiations over the course of several years resulted in a proposed settlement agreement filed with the Court in July 2012. The Association announced its fierce opposition to the proposed settlement agreement last fall based on a unanimous decision by the executive committee.
Over the past seven years, card companies have charged $350 billion in swipe fees to consumers, and the current payment system is so convoluted, the average restaurateur and other class merchants often have little transparency into the amount and types of fees charged, which are necessary in today’s marketplace. Restaurateurs, as well as other class merchants, also have little ability to negotiate fees or terms of card acceptance. During the past few years, the NRA has worked to foster a more equitable payments system for restaurateurs and continues to pursue changes that will create a fairer system.