Retail Groups File Amicus in SCOTUS Amex Credit Card Fees Case
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Retail Industry Leaders Association
Dec 14, 2017, 18:58 ET
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the trade associations for America's most recognized retailers, filed a joint amicus brief in Ohio, et al. v. American Express. The case, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, considers the legality of American Express (Amex) rules that prevent retailers from offering benefits, including discounts, to consumers for using cards with lower fees, or even educating consumers about those fees. The brief was filed on behalf of the Retail Litigation Center (RLC), National Retail Federation (NRF), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), National Grocers Association (NGA), National Association of Shell Marketers, Inc. (NASM), and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).
Amex, Visa and MasterCard once all had rules prohibiting merchants from encouraging customers to use lower-fee credit cards. Visa and MasterCard dropped the restriction in a 2010 settlement with the Justice Department. Amex refused to do the same, and was sued by DOJ, as well as 11 states. A U.S. District Court judge ruled in February 2015 that the Amex rules violated federal antitrust law and enjoined them, but Amex appealed and a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled in its favor. Eleven states petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to re-consider the lower court's decision. In October of this year, SCOTUS agreed to hear the merits of this case.
"Marketplace competition is the hallmark of the retail industry. Unfortunately, it is largely absent from the credit card market where fees continue to skyrocket. These fees—forcibly hidden from the consumer by credit card companies—are among the highest costs of doing business for America's retailers. Retailers should have the right to offer consumers benefits for using cards with lower fees," said Deborah White, senior executive vice president and general counsel for RILA and president of the RLC.
"Transparency is a vital first step toward bringing credit card swipe fees under control. These rules amount to a gag order on retailers educating their customers about the high cost of credit card fees or encouraging them to use cards that carry lower fees. As long as rules like these are allowed to remain in place, credit card fees will continue to drive up costs for retailers and the prices paid by consumers," NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Stephanie Martz said.
"Information is power – and preventing merchants from sharing useful, money-saving information with consumers only adds to the already immense market power acquired and long abused by the credit card giants. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike a blow for competition by barring American Express from using that power to benefit itself by reducing choice for consumers while driving up costs for merchants," stated Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president, government affairs for NACS.
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