Antitrust Lawsuit Against Visa and MasterCard Applauded by NRF

Apr 18, 2003

Antitrust Lawsuit Against Visa and MasterCard Applauded by NRF

The National Retail Federation (NRF) on Wednesday voiced their approval of
a U.S. District Court decision to proceed to trial with an antitrust case brought
by more than five million large and small U.S. merchants against Visa and MasterCard.
The case questions the companies’ practices of charging higher fees when customers
make the voluntary decision to sign for their debit card transaction vs. punching
in their PIN code.

Under the current system, merchants pay a flat fee of about 12 cents when a
customer uses a PIN on a debit card transaction, but are forced by Visa and
MasterCard to pay a percentage of the sale — usually between 1.5 and 2 percent
— when the customer signs a sales slip instead.

“The problem is that Visa and MasterCard have gotten greedy and are trying
to train consumers to sign because they make more money that way”, said NRF
president and ceo Tracy Mullin. “We think that’s wrong. It artificially inflates
the price of almost every product sold and lets Visa and MasterCard rake in
huge profits at the expense of hard-working American consumers.” The NRF press
release went on to say that “the higher fees for signature transactions drive
up the costs of goods and services for all consumers and generate more than
$6 billion per year in excess profits for Visa, MasterCard and their member

The case is set to go to trial on April 28, 2003.

Moderator’s Comment: Are the debit card companies justified
in setting these higher fees? Do they need to be?

Times are tough for credit card companies, and they’ve
apparently gotten pretty creative in coming up with new fee structures. For
mom and pop retailers living on the slimmest of margins, an extra percentage
point here and there has tangible effects on take home pay. And yet, paying
points on credit card purchases is a cost of doing business. Can someone explain
to me why the same fees are considered unfair when it comes to debit card transactions?
Moss – Moderator

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