As you have most likely heard, the Settlement Administrator in the Visa/MasterCard swipe fee antitrust litigation has begun mailing claim forms to millions of potential claimants to the $5.4 million settlement fund (the “Fund”). The Fund includes the proceeds of a settlement of the litigation, which claimed that merchants paid excessive fees to accept Visa and MasterCard transaction cards in violation of the antitrust laws.
The Settlement Administrator began mailing claim forms on December 1, 2023 and will continue sending the forms for most of December. Because of the large number of claim forms being sent, claimants may not receive a form until late December 2023 or January 2024. The Administrator urges potential claimants to be patient and wait to receive a form which will assign the claimant a Claimant ID and allow for online filing. The claims deadline is May 31, 2024.
Reports suggest that between 12 and 18 million businesses across the United States that accepted Visa and MasterCardpayments between January 1, 2004 and January 25, 2019 are eligible to claim a share of the Fund. EMA is concerned, however, that thousands of major oil company branded retailers may not be recipients of a claim form, and that they may be declared ineligible because they are deemed “indirect” payers, meaning that their major oil company supplier is recognized as the party that paid the interchange fees that formed the basis for the lawsuit. Under this theory, branded retailers who reimbursed their suppliers for the fees would not qualify as claimants. As previously reported by EMA, a Special Master has been appointed by the court to hear appeals from denials of eligibility, such as claim denials based on the alleged status of branded retailers as indirect payers.
If you receive a claim form in the mail, fill it out and return it to the Settlement Administrator in accordance with the instructions on the form using the assigned Claim ID number. If your claim is denied, you will be able to bring it before the Special Master for review. If you do not receive a form, you can access the settlement website below and enter your Tax ID number (TIN) to find out whether the Settlement Administrator considers you eligible. http://www.paymentcardsettlement.com/en/Login. While we have yet to gotten a hold of the procedures to be utilized by the Special Master, a determination of ineligibility obtained by accessing the above-referenced login information should be sufficient as a denial of your claim to warrant an appeal to the Special Master.
If your claim is denied on the ground that you are an “indirect payer,” and you wish to lodge an appeal, you may want to first seek guidance from your attorney, although you are free to file your appeal without attorney assistance. The primary basis for any such appeal would be that you are, in fact, a direct payer of the interchange fees paid on each card transaction.
EMA will keep you updated on developments in the claims process as they occur and as the information (now a bit murky) become clearer.