SCOTUS Will Hear Visa, MasterCard Appeal In ATM Fee Price-Fixing Case

Image courtesy of Todd Kravos

Ten months after an appellate court ruled that a lawsuit accusing Visa, MasterCard, and a slew of major banks of conspiring to fix ATM fees could go forward, the United States Supreme Court said it will review an appeal from those companies seeking to throw the case out completely.

SCOTUS will be considering a consolidated appeal from Visa, MasterCard, and the banks, combining two petitions. The first deals with allegations brought by consumers, the National ATM council, and a group of independent ATM operators [PDF] that the companies prevented those ATM operators from charging lower fees when consumers use debit cards that access cheaper processing networks. The second is a petition seeking to dismiss allegations from consumers that Visa, MasterCard, and Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo [PDF] worked together to illegally fix ATM prices.

The cases date back to 2011, when consumers and independent ATM contractors accused the banks and payment networks of illegally and anticompetitively establishing fee levels for out-of-network ATM use.

The ATM operators said they were kept from directing consumers to use smaller payment networks — that cost the operators less to use — and thus, pay a lower fee to use an ATM. The operators claimed that Visa and MasterCard only allowed access to their networks if ATM operators agreed to the condition that they won’t favor any other network in this way.

FOR MORE ON THIS CASE: Appeals Court Breathes New Life Into ATM Fee Price-Fixing Suit

In Feb. 2013, a U.S. District Court concluded that these complaints had failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing or lacked adequate facts to establish violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlaws “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce.”

The court ruled again in December that year that the plaintiff’s amended complaints still lacked sufficient facts to establish standing or a conspiracy.

The case got new life in August 2015, when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned those dismissals. Without saying the plaintiffs were right, the appeals panel said the matter should be decided through a trial.

The appeal has now been added to the docket for SCOTUS’ next term in October.

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