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WASHINGTON — A trade group representing the retail industry is requesting that a federal judge throw out a proposed settlement in an antitrust lawsuit over credit card swipe fees.
The National Retail Federation filed an amicus curiae brief with U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of Brooklyn, N.Y. The case concerns fees that the NRF said cost consumers $30 billion per year, calling the settlement a "surrender" and saying the fees amount to "price fixing." The suit dates back to 2005, when a group of six trade groups and 13 retailers — mostly individual stores and small chains — filed it.
"This is an empty settlement," NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. "It fails to address the price fixing that harms merchants and their customers; It takes away retailers' rights to ever try again; And it offers virtually nothing in return. It should be tossed out of court as the failure that it is."
NRF said that it had several other retailers that supported the brief had opted out of money offered under the settlement because accepting it would restrict future legal action, and that the share of the $7.25 billion each retailer would receive if it accepted the settlement would amount to less than three months' worth of swipe fee charges.
"Retailers simply cannot understand how the American system of justice can permit class action lawyers whom they have never met and who know nothing about their business to craft a 'settlement' that will preclude them forevermore from seeking redress on future losses without so much as offering them the opportunity to opt out," the NRF said. "It gives the credit card networks carte blanche to set and manipulate interchange rates going forward without fear of future private suits. There is nothing that the credit card networks could give that is worth this unbridled loss of control."