London Court Will Decide If Class Action Suit Against Mastercard Moves Forward

A class-action lawsuit against Mastercard for a record £14 billion ($19 billion) will be heard by a specialist London court on Thursday (March 25), which will decide if the case should proceed, Reuters reported.

The 2016 suit, brought by former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks, could entitle every adult in Britain to about £300 pounds each. Merricks accused Mastercard of overcharging over 46 million people across nearly 16 years.

The case goes before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) for a two-day hearing after the U.K. Supreme Court last year overruled objections to it moving forward. This is Britain’s first-ever mass consumer claim, and the outcome could set the stage for other such lawsuits on deck.

Quinn Emanuel, the U.S. law firm advising Merricks, accused Mastercard of overcharging retailers for credit card fees from May 1992 through June 2008. The allegations further state that those fees were then passed on to consumers via increased prices for merchandise, Reuters reported.

Some of the arguments expected to be heard this week concern the estates of those deceased, and whether compound interest should accrue. The case comes more than a dozen years after the European Commission ruled that Mastercard had charged unlawful cross-border interchange fees across the period indicated.

Mastercard maintains that the case has no merit and that many people reaped benefits from the company’s payments technology.

If allowed to move ahead, Merricks will likely have to prove that Mastercard’s domestic fees were illegal and what that actually ended up costing consumers.

The class-action lawsuit was brought on behalf of 46 million consumers and is the first major lawsuit to proceed under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which penalizes anti-competitive behavior. Mastercard and Visa lost a lawsuit in June 2020 over swipe fees. The U.K. high court upheld a 2018 ruling that charged both companies with suppressing retail competition with multilateral interchange fees (MIF).