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Google And Dozens Of Others Settle With Visa And MasterCard

Google is one of dozens of merchants who asked a New York court on Friday (Jan. 30) to dismiss their lawsuits against Visa and MasterCard claiming that the card brands conspired to fix interchange fees for credit cards, Law360 reported on Monday (Jan. 2).

As usual, settlement terms were not disclosed, and terms of the settlements must be approved by the court. But Google has a separate lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard pending in Texas, and the fate of that litigation remains unclear.

Along with Google, 1-800 Contacts, Ethan Allen, Tiffany & Co. and Williams Sonoma who settled with Visa and MasterCard on Friday. The retailers are among the major plaintiffs who opted out of an antitrust settlement that was originally worth more than $7 billion when it was reached in 2013.

In all, merchants representing about 25 percent of U.S. payment volume for the two largest card brands refused to be part of the settlement, which would have prevented them from suing Visa and MasterCard in the future.

But after opting out of the settlement, most of those large merchants pursued litigation separately. More than 30 lawsuits have been filed, including some in the Brooklyn U.S. District Court where the original interchange lawsuit was filed, and others in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Visa and MasterCard have been progressively whittling away at those lawsuits. During Visa’s Q4 earnings call on Thursday (Jan. 29), Visa CFO Byron Pollitt said that his company has spent $335 million to settle with merchants who opted out. That represents about 20 percent of U.S. payment-card volume. With the dozens of newly settled cases on Friday, that percentage is now probably larger.

Historically, Visa and MasterCard have settled with large retailers on terms that are more favorable to the merchants than the standard terms of the settlement — frequently offering them a lower-than-usual interchange rate for a fixed period of time.

What’s not yet clear is whether Friday’s settlement with Google also shuts down the search giant’s separate antitrust lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, which was filed on Dec. 23, 2014. Google did not respond to a call for clarification about that case on Tuesday.

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