A US federal judge approved on Friday December 13 an estimated $5.7bn class action settlement between US merchants and Visa and MasterCard.
The class action concerned credit cards fees that had drawn objections from thousands of retailers.
The settlement, the largest in a US antitrust class action, followed the merchants’ decision to sue Visa and MasterCard in 2005.
The two companies were accused of fixing the fees charged to the merchants each time the customers used their credit or debit cards, as well as preventing them from steering customers to cheaper forms of payments.
US district judge John Gleeson wrote: "I conclude that the proposed settlement secures both a significant damage award and meaningful injunctive relief for a class of merchants that would face a substantial likelihood of securing no relief at all if this case were to proceed."
Visa chief executive officer Charlie Scharf said in a statement that the company: "realized a significant achievements in our efforts to resolve the long-standing legal differences between merchants and the payments industry" and MasterCard general counsel Noah Hanft called Gleeson’s decision "an important milestone in putting this litigation behind us".
Gleeson’s decision has attracted criticism given the fact that the settlement’s value decreased to $5.7bn from $7.2bn, after thousands of merchants walked out of the deal.
Mallory Duncan, general counsel for the National Retail Federation said: "The settlement permanently ties the hands of thousand of businesses who wanted nothing to do with this misguided case, and a decision to approve it violates established law and common sense."
Duncan also added that her organisation was reviewing Gleeson’s ruling and expected to file an appeal; the controversy between Visa and MasterCard on one side, and the merchants on the other, is not over yet.