Opposition to a proposed settlement of long-standing antitrust lawsuits, filed by merchants against Visa, MasterCard and the nation's largest banks, continues to grow.
A group of merchants’ associations, including the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), detailed the reasons for their opposition last week in a letter to House and Senate leaders. If ultimately approved in court, the terms of the proposed settlement would apply to all 8 million U.S. merchants and any organization that might choose to accept Visa or MasterCard at any point in the future, the merchants noted.
"The proposed settlement, which was negotiated by Visa, MasterCard and lawyers purporting to represent the merchant community, is one-sided and preserves the very anticompetitive actions that were the genesis of the lawsuits. Quite simply, the proposed settlement is a bad deal for merchants and their customers. While the card networks and their representatives have suggested it is a fait accompli, the growing objections from the merchant community foreshadow the fight that lies ahead as Visa and MasterCard attempt to force the terms of the settlement on nearly 8 million merchants," said the organizations that signed the letter.
Among the many reasons cited for their objections is that the settlement:
· Entrenches the Visa/MasterCard duopoly,
· Enables continued centralized price-fixing by Visa and MasterCard,
· Allows Visa and MasterCard to continue to handcuff merchants and prevent them from seeking better deals and communicating openly with their customers,
· Forbids merchants from opting out of restrictive new rules set forth in the proposal,
· Gives Visa and MasterCard the ability to keep market forces from working by keeping prices hidden,
· Makes all current and future merchants – even those that are not yet in existence - forever surrender their legal rights, and
· Limits emerging innovations that can bring meaningful competition to the marketplace, such as mobile payments.
Groups in addition to NACS, SIGMA and NATSO that signed the letter are: the National Association of College Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, the National Grocers Association, the National Retail Federation, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
"Given the important oversight role of Congress and your continued interest in this important issue, we write today to urge you to reject the false claims from the card networks and their representatives. The proposed settlement does nothing to resolve the failures in the electronic payment market and continued Congressional involvement in these issues is imperative. We look forward to keeping you fully informed as the legal process moves forward and the chorus of objections grows," said the letter.