Monday, 24 October 2011

More Lawsuits Take Aim At Visa And MasterCard ATM Policies

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Visa Inc. (V) and MasterCard Inc. (MA) face new lawsuits claiming their fee policies for ATM transactions are anti-competitive.
One suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., argues the companies, which process credit- and debit-card transactions, prohibit operators of automated teller machines from charging consumers different levels of fees depending on which card network processes their transactions.
"The ATM restraints prevent ATM operators from offering their customers a discount or benefit for completing a transaction over a network that is less costly to the ATM operator, so consumers cannot be rewarded for using a lower cost and more efficient network," the suit said.
In addition to Visa and MasterCard, several smaller debit-card networks offer consumers ATM access, including First Data Corp.'s Star network and Discover Financial Services' (DFS) Pulse network.
A separate lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, also naming Bank of America Corp. (BAC), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) as defendants, makes similar allegations, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday. The suit claims the banks conspired to fix ATM fees.
Last week a trade group called the National ATM Council Inc. filed a suit against Visa and MasterCard arguing the companies' rules amount to price-fixing. The group, which represents independent ATM operators, says the operators have suffered losses in the "tens of millions of dollars" because of the companies' rules.
A MasterCard spokesman wrote in an email Wednesday that the ATM operators' claims lack merit.
"These rules were put in place to protect consumers from ATM operators seeking to impose discriminatory surcharges on our cardholders," the spokesman wrote. "We believe these important consumer protections must be preserved and we will vigorously defend against the claims brought against us."
A Visa spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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