Hearing comin up in the US Supreme Court soon.
By AnnaMaria Andriotis and
Updated Oct. 16, 2017 3:51 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court intervened in a high-stakes case for the credit-card industry Monday, saying it will review a government antitrust challenge to American Express Co. AXP 1.49% rules that bar merchants from steering customers to cards that charge lower fees.
The court’s move marks the latest turn in a long-running antitrust case against the credit-card giant. At issue are the fees that AmEx charges merchants when consumers use its cards at their stores. AmEx’s card policy says that merchants that choose to accept AmEx cards can’t steer consumers to use cards on other networks, like Visa V 2.12% or Mastercard .
Federal and state antitrust enforcers have argued the AmEx rules are an unlawful restraint on trade. AmEx disputes the allegations and says its rules are good for cardholders.
The company appeared to have the upper hand in the litigation last year after winning a major decision from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. That ruling reversed a trial judge who said AmEx violated U.S. antitrust law because it didn’t allow stores that accept AmEx cards to encourage shoppers to use cheaper cards.
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“The earlier decision by the Second Circuit panel protects a consumer’s right to choose how they pay, prevents our card members from being discriminated against and promotes competition in the payments industry,” a spokesman for AmEx said in a statement. “With the Supreme Court’s decision to take up this case, we will continue to vigorously defend the Second Circuit’s decision in favor of American Express.”
Retailers and states praised the Supreme Court’s decision. “Retailers have long said AmEx’s rules are an antitrust violation that deny consumers truthful information about their credit cards,” according to a statement Monday from the Retail Litigation Center.
“The issues in this appeal involve anticompetitive practices that hinder Ohio consumers and Ohio retailers and merchants. We look forward to making our arguments before the court,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
The Justice Department first sued AmEx in 2010, one of the early headline cases for U.S. antitrust enforcers in the Obama administration. The Trump Justice Department, however, took a different tack and chose not to continue the fight. It declined to seek Supreme Court review and urged the justices not to consider the ongoing appeal by attorneys general from 11 states, led by Ohio.
Trump officials said the appeals court made errors in ruling for AmEx, but nevertheless said the case didn’t merit high court review. The states disagreed, arguing the case deserved the Supreme Court’s attention.
The justices agreed with the states. In a brief written order issued Monday, they said they would hear the case. Oral arguments are expected early next year and a decision is expected by the end of June.
AmEx shares fell more than 1% Monday after the Supreme Court’s announcement.
The stakes are high for AmEx. The fees it charges retailers are often higher than for other cards. Some merchants choose not to accept AmEx cards as a result.
AmEx in recent years has been working on raising its merchant acceptance in part by lowering its so-called swipe fees. Still, a ruling against the company’s current policy could lessen the number of AmEx card transactions and related revenue. AmEx has said in recent securities filings that losing the case could have a material adverse effect on its business.
Visa and Mastercard settled similar government antitrust claims in 2010, agreeing to drop their policies that barred merchants from using discounts, rebates or other incentives to encourage customers to pay with cheaper cards.
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Jennie Paluka says "report McGarvie to IBAC"
11 months 4 weeks ago #3513
What's unclear to the same Commissioner McGarvie and the CEO McGarvie? The landlord Jones wasn't evicted and Jones threatened to sue them for defamatorily inventing a cover up story to coneal the infomation they were handing out to owners of 'litigation service companies' of ex martial artists with boastful claims of their underworld connections. And the DEA arrested Ravelo's narcotics operation that passed Reserve Bank Australia info in the same "Antitrust" cases. And Justice Randall sacked the lawyers that semed to have McGarvie's backing.
Gorsuch asks if there's evidence in that case Glenn Jones complained that Howard Bowles passes information to the famous operator of bogus litigation services.
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Supreme Court Grills Both Sides in States’ Challenge of American Express
American Express Co.’s card rules for merchants prompted strong reactions at the Supreme Court Monday
States have challenged an American Express policy that retailers and other businesses that accept AmEx cards are prohibited from providing incentives that encourage customers to pay with cards on other networks.
States have challenged an American Express policy that retailers and other businesses that accept AmEx cards are prohibited from providing incentives that encourage customers to pay with cards on other networks. Photo: Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Feb. 26, 2018 6:50 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON— American Express Co.’s card rules for merchants prompted strong reactions at the Supreme Court Monday, as the justices considered whether to revive a government antitrust lawsuit challenging the company’s approach.
At issue is an AmEx policy that says retailers and other businesses that accept AmEx cards are prohibited from providing incentives that encourage customers to pay with cards on other networks like Visa or Mastercard that charge lower fees.
During an hour-long oral argument, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch dominated questions from the bench and offered starkly different views of the case.
Justice Sotomayor told an AmEx lawyer that the company’s rules undermined “the essence of competition” and deprived consumers the option of receiving discounts for alternative forms of payment.
“If I go to a cash register and the merchant says to me, ‘I’ll give you a 1% discount today if you don’t use AmEx,’ I sit there and think to myself, ‘Do I need the airplane rewards or the train rewards, or do I want the 1%?’ ” Justice Sotomayor said. “But this anti-steering removes that competition.”
She spoke more than 35 times during the argument.
Justice Gorsuch, for his part, pressed an attorney for Ohio, one of 11 states that brought the challenge to the AmEx rules to the high court. He suggested AmEx, which has a smaller market share than Visa and Mastercard, doesn’t have the market power necessary to impose anticompetitive terms. He also said AmEx card rewards provided notable benefits to consumers.
“My question is, do you have any evidence that, on a net basis, consumers pay more” because of the AmEx rules, Justice Gorsuch said. “I don’t believe you have,” he told Ohio State Solicitor Eric Murphy.
Justice Gorsuch spoke about 30 times during the session.
The outcome of the case wasn’t clear, because a majority of justices didn’t signal their views and both sides received tough questions from the court.
AmEx lawyer Evan Chesler said the fees that merchants pay the company fuel benefits for consumers.
“Every reward, every seat on a plane to Aruba, every ticket to a Billy Joel concert, every cash-back reward that’s given is a price discount to the consumer,” he said.
Mr. Murphy from Ohio said AmEx’s rules “raised the prices that all four credit-card companies charge merchants.”
The Supreme Court’s review comes after a federal appeals court in 2016 ruled for AmEx and threw out the government’s case.
The Justice Department and a group of states first sued AmEx in 2010, an early headline case for Obama-era antitrust enforcers. They won a trial court ruling that barred the company’s rules, but then lost at the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The department under Trump administration leadership declined to seek Supreme Court review after the appellate loss, but on Monday it supported the states’ position and urged the justices to revive the case.
The case has high stakes for AmEx’s business model but also could have broader ramifications for other companies that have multisided business platforms, especially in the tech sector.
Like AmEx, many leading technology companies have markets in which they do business with end-use consumers on one side of their business and with merchants and advertisers on the other.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
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