Independent ATM operators in the US have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, alleging that the card issuers' rules artificially inflate and fix the price of cash machine access fees.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia by the National ATM Council and several independent operators of automated teller machines, alleges that the card scheme's network rules prohibit ATM operators from offering lower prices for transactions over PIN-debit networks that are not affiliated with Visa or MasterCard.
The suit alleges that the price fixing artificially raises the price that consumers pay for ATM services, limits the revenue that ATM-operators can earn, and violates the Sherman Act's prohibition against unreasonable restraints of trade.
"Visa and MasterCard are the ringleaders, organisers, and enforcers of a conspiracy among US banks to fix the price of ATM access fees in order to keep the competition at bay," says Jonathan Rubin, managing member of Washington, DC-based Rubin PLLC, an antitrust law firm representing the plaintiffs in the suit. "Were it not for these anticompetitive rules, Visa and MasterCard would face real competition for ATM services, consumers would pay lower prices for using ATMs, and more ATMs would be deployed."
About 400,000 ATMs are in service across the US, of which about half are operated by independent ATM operators who comprise the proposed class, the suit says.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and asks the court to certify the case as a class action on behalf of all independent ATM operators and to declare Visa and MasterCard's restraints on ATM access fees unlawful.