// Retailers win major Supreme Court victory in over payment card processing fees
// The court rejected an appeal by Visa & Mastercard against Sainsbury’s, Asda & Morrisons
// Result means retailers can proceed with a trial to assess how much they are entitled to in damages
Retailers have scored a major Supreme Court victory in long-running litigation over payment card processing fees.
In a ruling today, a panel of five justices held that multilateral interchange fees – which are charged to retailers each time a credit or debit card payment is processed – breach UK and EU competition law.
The court rejected an appeal brought by Visa and Mastercard against Sainsbury’s and other retailers – heard over four days in January – after three separate rulings in lower courts and tribunals on the issue produced different results.
The judges also allowed a cross appeal by Asda, Argos and Morrisons, which was brought against a decision by the Court of Appeal to send the issue back to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) for reconsideration.
As a result, those retailers will be able to proceed with a trial to assess how much they are entitled to in damages – unless they reach an agreement with the card operators.
Lawyers for some of the retailers said some of the financial claims over processing fees go back as far as 1992.
Kate Pollock, head of competition litigation at law firm Stewarts, which represented Asda, Argos and Morrisons, said in a statement after the ruling: “Following an exceptional four-day hearing in the Supreme Court in the landmark interchange fee litigation, our clients and we are delighted that the court has found unequivocally in our clients’ favour and confirmed their long-held view that the fixing of interchange fees by Mastercard and its network members over many years was an unlawful infringement of competition law.
“Our clients were also successful in their cross-appeal, overturning the Court of Appeal’s decision to remit their claims to the CAT on the question as to whether there is an exemptible level of interchange fees.
“Described by the commercial court as the largest and most complex cartel damages claim conducted in the English courts to date, this litigation has been hard fought.
“The Supreme Court’s definitive finding on liability means that our clients’ claims can now proceed to trial on the issue of the quantum of damages.
“They look forward to a swift resolution of the matter without further delay.”
with PA Wires