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A landmark £14bn class action claim against MasterCard was filed in London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on 8 September 2016. The claim is the highest value claim to be brought before the CAT and the first major claim to be brought on behalf of multiple UK consumers under the new class action framework introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act).
Walter Merricks CBE, the former Chief Financial Services Ombudsman, is bringing the claim on behalf of approximately 46 million UK customers seeking to recover losses incurred as a result of MasterCard charging unlawful interchange fees (the fees retailers were obliged to pay banks to process MasterCard debit and credit card payments) on cross-border transactions between 1992 and 2007. Under the Act, consumers living in the UK who suffered loss as a result of these unlawful fees are automatically eligible for compensation unless they explicitly opt out. The claim follows on from the European Court of Justice ruling in 2014 that MasterCard abused its dominant market position by imposing anti-competitively high interchange fees. As MasterCard’s fees have already been ruled unlawful in the European court, the claim need only prove the losses consumers suffered as a result of the anti-competitive charges. MasterCard adamantly disagrees with the basis of the claim and intends to oppose it vigorously.
Merricks stated that filing the claim was “a watershed moment for consumer redress” in the UK. This claim seems likely to develop into a tough legal battle and unless a settlement is reached, a full trial is expected in 2018.