Domina Law Group pc llo and Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, a Minneapolis based firm, filed a major antitrust class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, today. The suit seeks to reform the credit card industry.
The suit was filed against Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America, Citibank, Bank One, Chase Manhattan Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Fleet Bank, Capital One and other major banks on behalf of merchants alleging collusive practices of their setting, by horizontal agreement, credit card interchange fees at supra-competitive levels. The Complaint seeks injunctive relief to stop the alleged anticompetitive practices, plus money damages.
Plaintiffs include Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative, a Norfolk Nebraska retailer grocery supply company; the National Grocers Association, a national trade association representing independent food retailers; the Minnesota Grocers Association, a state trade association representing independent food retailers in Minnesota; and D'Agostini's a large eastern New York grocery retailer.
The plaintiffs seek to represent a class of merchants operating thousands of independent grocery stores throughout the United States which accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards.
"We are challenging Visa, MasterCard and their bank members' practices; these practices cause merchants to pay supra-competitive and non-negotiable fixed interchange fees for the acceptance of these credit card payments," said David Domina. "The fees are collusive, they add transaction costs at retail amounting to billions of dollars in bank profits each year at the expense of small businesses and consumers."
Visa International Service Ass'n, Inc. operates from San Francisco and boasts 21,000 member banks. MasterCard International Inc. operates from Purchase, NY and has 23,000 member banks. Visa and MasterCard issue over 85% of all U.S. general purpose credit cards.
"The Interchange Fees were devised in the 1970's to cover bank transactional costs, when Visa and MasterCard had no market power," said Michael C. Stumo of Domina Law Group pc llo. "Regulatory authorities in many other countries, from the European Union to Australia, have recently adopted measures to reduce interchange fees, but in the United States, it will take action by the courts to accomplish this" Stumo added.
"Independent merchants have no options to fight this individually, but collectively, I am confident we can make a difference. Credit card interchange fees definitely affect consumers and the bottom lines of small businesses," said Domina. "We hope to make a change."
November 10, 2005
David A. Domina / Michael C. Stumo
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