The complex case, brought after Mastercard lost an appeal against a 2007 European Commission ruling that its fees were anti-competitive, could entitle UK adults to 300 pounds ($ 396.44) each if successful.
The court dismissed a Mastercard appeal, paving the way for Britain’s first mass consumer claim under a new legal regime and setting a standard for a series of other blocked class actions.
“Mastercard has… imposed excessive card transaction fees over an extended period of time in a way you should have known it would impose an invisible tax on UK consumers,” said Walter Merricks, a lawyer leading the action.
Mastercard said the claim was motivated by “hit and hope” US lawyers.
The matter will now be referred to the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT), appointed in 2015 to oversee Britain’s opt-out class actions of American type for violations of UK law or the European Union on competition.
The CAT will reconsider granting the collective procedure order (OPC) necessary for the case to stand, having refused to certify the case in 2017 due to its complexity. A hearing is scheduled for next year.
Mastercard said it would ask the CAT to avoid a serious risk of the new class action plan going down the wrong path with a “fundamentally flawed” case.
The case centers on the so-called interchange fees that credit and debit card companies say they charge merchant banks to cover the costs of card services, security, and banking. innovation.
Merricks, who is advised by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, alleges that these fees were excessive between 1992 and 2008, had to be paid by companies which accepted Mastercard payments from UK consumers and were passed on by the increase in store prices.
Under the opt-out scheme, UK-based members of a defined group are automatically bound by legal action unless they opt out.
Critics say such regimes encourage baseless claims. Others say they may offer an effective means of compensation for those whose claims are individually too small to justify the legal costs of taking on large businesses on their own – and that the consolidation of these claims helps attract the necessary funding.
One of those backers, Therium, said it now plans to increase its investment allocation to competitive class actions.
Anthony Maton, global vice president of the Hausfeld law firm, which advises on other class actions, said: “This is a revolution in English law.”