Starting late last year, class-action claim forms were sent to about 18.6 million merchants across the U.S. who processed Visa and Mastercard payments during a 15-year period.

Now, lawyers for the merchants are wondering how many of them will seek compensation ahead of a fast-approaching deadline.

The claim forms were mailed in the aftermath of a $5.5 billion settlement that partially resolved a long-running antitrust case in which the two credit card network giants were alleged to have overcharged merchants by exacting excessive interchange fees.

Those swipe fees are what a merchant pays to accept credit card or debit card payments. Visa and Mastercard didn’t admit to any wrongdoing in the civil case as part of the settlement that was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in March 2023.

To be eligible to receive money for the allegedly inflated interchange fees they paid, merchants have until May 31 to file a claim with the settlement administrator.

Given that deadline, plaintiffs’ lawyers and the settlement administrator are making a final push to get as many eligible businesses to submit claims as possible, said Alexandra “Xan” Bernay, one of the co-lead counsel for the class of merchants.

Their efforts have included educating merchants about the validity of the large settlement and working to counteract scams perpetrated by bad actors.

“We have seen some skepticism from merchants and heard from merchants who unfortunately had inadvertently recycled their mailed claim form,” Bernay said. “Fortunately, the education and outreach team have helped us reach merchant populations that may have originally been unlikely to file.”

A recent related, though separate, settlement involving Visa and Mastercard that addresses how interchange fees will be handled in the future has created a need for some additional education to prevent confusion among merchants.

Bernay advises merchants that this other settlement, which has not yet received court approval, does not impact their ability to file claims and receive money.

The case for filing

As for the court-approved payment card settlement, the work to get merchants to file claims began in earnest once the claim notices were mailed in December, said Bernay, a partner at the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd.

The class includes any U.S. businesses that accepted Visa and/or Mastercard credit or debit cards between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 25, 2019. 

While the lawyers and settlement administrator declined to provide estimates of how much money individual merchants will receive, Bernay said many claimants could receive a significant amount, given the large number of transactions they processed during the lengthy class period.

She also emphasized that while some class-action settlements tend to benefit larger businesses much more than smaller ones, the payment card case has the potential to help “every type of business.”

This settlement touches the smallest corner bodega all the way to some of the largest companies in the country,” Bernay said.

She and an official with the settlement administrator, Epiq, say the claims filing process was purposely designed to be very easy for merchants to complete.

Merchants can go to the official claims website and enter their claimant ID and control number located in the middle of the claim form they received, or they can input their taxpayer identification number and some additional information. Bernay said the filing of a claim should take just a few minutes.

“I think people are going to be pleased with what they get back relative to the level of effort it’s going to take to file a claim,” said Cameron Azari, a senior vice president at Epiq. “It’s leaving money on the table for folks if they don’t.”

Merchant perspective

One business that has gone through the claims submissions process for the payment card case is Pigment, a regional retailer in San Diego that sells design-savvy gifts, flora and furniture.

Filing a claim was “super seamless and easy to do,” said Chad Anglin, Pigment’s co-owner. He estimated the process took him three minutes.

Anglin said it was “wonderful” that businesses like his are eligible to receive money for the allegedly excessive interchange fees they paid.


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