The European General Court [official website], the EU's second highest court on Thursday rejected [judgment] a challenge by MasterCard [corporate website] over its cross-border credit card fees. The court upheld a decision by the European Commission [official website] that the fees violate EU antitrust rules. The commission welcomed the ruling, but MasterCard expressed disappointment [press releases]:
MasterCard balances the interests of both consumers and retailers, so that each party pays its fair share of the costs for the benefits it receives. Today's ruling, if it stands, would upset that sharing and tip the balance decidedly against consumers. It would also threaten the continued delivery of the most advanced electronic payment technologies in Europe which, in turn, are essential to facilitating business and driving economic growth.MasterCard plans to appeal the ruling.
In 2010 the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a civil antitrust lawsuit [JURIST report] against MasterCard, Visa and American Express [corporate websites]. The lawsuit challenged rules utilized by the companies that prevented merchants from providing discounts and rewards for using credit cards with lower merchant fees. The DOJ contended that these rules unfairly inflate costs for both consumers and merchants. Visa and MasterCard agreed to a settlement that required the companies to allow merchants using their cards to express a preference for types of payments accepted, to offer discounts to consumers for using a particular card or type of payment and to provide consumers with information regarding the costs incurred by the merchant when a particular type of credit card is used. In 2008 Visa and Mastercard settled an antitrust suit [JURIST report] with Discover Financial Services [corporate website] for $2.75 billion. The settlement was the result of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Discover after a DOJ suit [opinion] determined Visa and Mastercard were in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by prohibiting banks from using Discover's services.