Thousands of UK firms expected to unite against Visa and Mastercard to contest excessive corporate card payment fees

A class action lawsuit against Visa and Mastercard on behalf of a large number of claimants will be launched imminently. Harcus Parker, a UK commercial litigation law firm specialising in group litigation, competition litigation and class action lawsuits, will bring the corporate card claim at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), the UK’s specialist judicial body for hearing competition cases. The class action seeks compensation for UK businesses, which were charged Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) for accepting payments using UK corporate* credit cards, and credit and debit cards from overseas visitors.

Harcus Parker claims that Visa and Mastercard have forced banks to agree to a level of MIFs set by the two giants, which are “anti-competitive and unlawful”.

“This case is about putting pounds back into the pockets of businesses across the economy, and making a stand against unlawful interchange fees. The fact is that the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice have both condemned this practice for consumer credit and debit cards. UK courts should now clamp down on commercial card and inter-regional fees.” said Jeremy Robinson, competition litigation partner at Harcus Parker.

Multilateral Interchange Fees make up the greater part of the service charges levied by banks on businesses when customers pay by card. Typically, for every £100 spend, around £1.80 is charged by the credit card giants on payments made by corporate cards, costs which are borne by companies throughout the UK.

Since 2015, UK law capped Multilateral Interchange Fees at 0.3 percent on consumer credit card transactions, and 0.2 percent for consumer debit cards. However, this cap did not apply to corporate credit and debit cards, or for inter-regional transactions. These sales have continued to attract fees of up to 1.8 percent per transaction. Harcus Parker accuse Mastercard and Visa of imposing anti-competitive MIFs on the banks, since the MIFs that banks charge each other were set by the schemes, rather than by market competition. These MIFs for corporate and inter-regional payments should be zero per cent, say Harcus Parker.

The class action is open to all business, including large international companies and local businesses, as well as some non-UK companies. Many of these businesses, particularly in the travel and hospitality sectors, have been particularly hard hit by Brexit and Covid-19.

UK businesses with an annual pre-Covid turnover of £100 million or more are invited to opt-in to the claim. Businesses with a turnover under this threshold will be automatically included unless they choose to opt out. The CAT is expected to hear the first round of the case in 2022, when it will decide whether the case can be certified to go forwards to trial. The case is financed by a third party litigation funder, Bench Walk Advisers, and is fully insured.