Visa sues Wal-Mart as interchange fight escalates

Visa sues Wal-Mart as interchange fight escalates

The ongoing battle between card schemes and US merchants over interchange fees has escalated, with news that Visa is to sue the nation's largest retailer Wal-Mart over its rejection of a previously negotiated $7.2 billion class action interchange settlement.

The settlement, agreed by law firms acting on behalf of class action plaintiffs in July last year, has since been rejected by a host of top retailers and trade groups, who have counter-sued the card schemes in search of heftier fines and deeper reforms. Nearly 8000 merchants out of a proposed class of 8 million have so far opted out of the preliminary agreement.

Late last month, Visa, MasterCard and several banks filed suit against the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Grocers Association, the National Restaurant Association, Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative and D'Agostino Supermarkets Inc.

For Wal-Mart, Visa has reiterated its earlier position that it seeks finality in its dealings with retailers and wants to "prevent the continuation of endless, wasteful litigation".

A Wal-Mart spokesman, Randy Hargrove, told Bloomberg that the chain is still considering whether to pursue its own suit.

"We are disappointed that Visa chose to file this unwarranted and unsupportable lawsuit in retaliation for our decision to opt out and object to an unfair settlement agreement," Hargrove said in a statement. "The proposed settlement would allow credit card companies and big banks to perpetuate a broken system that costs consumers billions of dollars each year."

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 June, 2013, 09:00Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

As I see the ongoing litigation between US merchants and Card Schemes, I wonder whether this will drive merchants to seek faster adoption of mobile payments technology as an alternative.

Rather than being beholden to Financial Institutions this might just provide a catalyst for the large merchants to drive mobile payments that will effectively exclude the traditional payments players. US banks are already seeing alternatives threatening their traditional payment revenue streams and are seeking ways to ensure they are part of the new world of mobile payments but the retailers are big enough to make alternate choices.

The sums involved are considerable so this will be interesting to watch it evolve with so much at stake.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 June, 2013, 09:31Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Only if they can push whatever the mobile solution charges onto the customer.

Which sort of summarises the ultimate aim of Walmart and others, which is to get rid of their own interchange fees, and push them onto the customer and/or mobile solution providor.

However, if the mobile solution charges are greater than whatever Visa's are (quite likely) then that will make Walmart's goods more expensive. Which Walmart will be very unlikely to accept.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 June, 2013, 12:59Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I'm not sure how mobile payment solutions will help merchants at all in this context. For payments at the POS, plastic card is the second cheapest method of payment for merchants (cash being the cheapest). Virtually all current mobile payment solutions use conventional card network rails and are costlier than plastic cards. If and when a mobile payment comes along that doesn't use card rails, it remains to be seen if it's cheaper than all other incumbent MOPs.