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March 2019

Can You Join $6B Settlement Claim?

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By Ronnie Miles
Director of Advocacy
NGCOA

If your golf course accepted credit cards anytime between Jan. 1, 2004, and Nov. 28, 2012, you may be eligible to share in the $6 billion class action settlement against Visa U.S.A. Inc. (“Visa”) and MasterCard International Inc. (“MasterCard”).

On Jan. 24, 2019, the U.S. District Court of New York granted preliminary approval to the settlement filed on Sept. 18, 2018 in the case “Payment Card Interchange Fee And Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation.” While this case has lingered in the courts since 2012, it finally appears to be coming to a close.

After an initial filing in 2009, on Nov. 27, 2012, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York approved the class action lawsuit settlement finding that Visa and MasterCard, separately and together with banks, violated antitrust laws and caused merchants to pay excessive fees for accepting their credit and debit cards.

On Dec. 13, 2013, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, issued final approval of the settlement. However, this decision was appealed by many of the merchants, which felt that the lower court limited that settlement to only two classes of merchants.

Then on Sept. 28, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard the arguments, and on June 30, 2016, it reversed the approval of the settlement. The court concluded, “numerous objectors and opt-out plaintiffs argue that this class action was improperly certified and that the settlement was unreasonable and inadequate. We conclude that the class plaintiffs were inadequately represented in violation of Rule 23(a)(4) and the Due Process Clause. Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s certification of this class action and reverse the approval of the settlement.”

The court found the companies violated antitrust laws by:
 Agreeing to set, apply and enforce rules about merchant fees (called default fees or interchange fees)
 Limiting what merchants could do to encourage customers to use other forms of payments, for example, charging customers an extra fee or offering discounts when using cash or checks, and
 Continuing this behavior even after Visa and MasterCard changed corporate structures.

So, where does this leave our members who failed to file their claim? After reaching out to a number of you, it was apparent either they did not receive the public notice in 2014 or they just ignored it. We have reached out to the court appointed managing agency for the settlement (Payment Card Settlement group) as well as the lead attorney representing the merchants (Berger & Montague PC) and learned our members may still be able to participate in the settlement.

Claim forms and payments are not available at this time. If the Court grants final approval and any appeals are resolved, the Court will approve a claim form and set a claim deadline.

The NGCOA will continue to follow this lawsuit and ensure its members are afforded the opportunity to participate in this settlement process.

If you have questions or information to share, contact me at rmiles@ngcoa.org. NGCOA members can read more about the organization’s advocacy efforts at ngcoa.org/advocacy.

 

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