(Adds details of dispute, paragraphs 3-12)
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, March 27 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Monday declined to hear a bid by retailers to revive a $7.25
billion antitrust settlement they reached with Visa Inc and
Mastercard Inc over claims the card networks improperly
fixed credit and debit card fees.
The high court left in place a 2016 lower court decision
that threw out the settlement on the basis that it was unfair to
retailers that stood to receive no payments and derive no other
The brief Supreme Court order noted that Chief Justice John
Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito did not participate in
consideration of whether to take up the appeal. No reason was
The settlement had been intended to resolve claims that
merchants were overcharged on interchange fees, or "swipe fees,"
when shoppers used credit or debit cards, and were barred from
directing customers toward cheaper means of payment.
The deal had been the largest all-cash U.S. antitrust
settlement, although its value shrank to about $5.7 billion
after roughly 8,000 retailers "opted out."
The New York-based 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found
that the accord was unfair to retailers that stood to receive no
payments and, in the court's view, little or no benefit at all.
It also decertified the case as a class action.
The circuit court's decision was a blow to the credit card
industry, which hoped the settlement would end a decade of
litigation brought on behalf of about 12 million retailers
against Visa, MasterCard and banks that issue their cards.
Companies including Amazon.com Inc, Costco
Wholesale Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc opposed
the settlement and challenged it on appeal. Card issuers
American Express Co and Discover Financial Services
also objected to the settlement.
A federal judge in Brooklyn had approved the settlement in
2013, saying it offered significant damages and meaningful
protections against future harm.
Many retailers and trade groups objected. Some said the
payout should have been higher while others said the settlement
would have made it too difficult to sue Visa and MasterCard.
According to the National Retail Federation trade group,
retailers pay roughly $60 billion annually in swipe fees, which
typically average around 2 percent.
Card-issuing banks would have funded much of the settlement.
JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp had
estimated they were responsible for roughly one-fifth and
one-tenth, respectively, of a payout.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; additional reporting by Jonathan
Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham)