Mastercard is facing the UK’s biggest class action trial over its payment fees after a court approved a £10bn lawsuit on behalf of 46 million consumers.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), which previously rejected the lawsuit, on Wednesday authorised the landmark case, brought by former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks.
It is alleged Mastercard charged excessive “interchange” fees – the fees retailers pay credit card companies when consumers use a card to shop – between May 1992 and June 2008 and that those fees were passed on to consumers as retailers raised prices.
Mr Merricks’s case is being brought on behalf of all people aged 16 and over who bought goods and services from a UK business that accepted Mastercard between these dates, unless they opt out of the lawsuit.
He had hoped to expand the scope of the case to include the estates of the deceased and compound interest to the claim but this was rejected by judges.
Mastercard said this reduced the claim’s size to around £10bn – but Mr Merricks’s team argued the claim was much higher and closer to £15bn.
If successful, 46 million consumers could be entitled to about £300 each.
It is hoped the decision to finally authorise the five-year case as a collective action will establish a standard for a string of other proposed class actions that have been stalled in its wake.
Mr Merricks said in a statement: “Mastercard has thrown everything at trying to prevent this claim going forward, but today its efforts have failed. The tribunal’s ruling heralds the start of an era of consumer-focused class actions which will help to hold big business to account in areas that really matter.”
Mastercard said the “spurious” claim was being driven by lawyers and backed by organisations “primarily focused on making money for themselves”.
The company added in a statement: “The decision today reduces the value of this spurious claim by more than 35 per cent.
“Mastercard is confident that over the coming months a review of key facts will further significantly reduce the size and viability of the claim.”
Additional reporting by Reuters