Advantage boss Julia Lo Bue-Said has backed a class action lawsuit against Mastercard and Visa seeking repayment of at least £1.5 billion in service fees.
The chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership showed her support for the civil case, being brought by UK commercial litigation firm Harcus Parker, at the consortium’s conference in Madeira.
Harcus Parker is poised to bring a claim at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) for repayment of Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) on corporate card transactions and the ‘inter-regional fees’ on payments by overseas cardholders.
The law firm claims Visa and Mastercard have forced banks to agree to a level of MIFs which are “anti-competitive and unlawful”.
“Travel businesses have been, and continue to be, overcharged whenever they accept certain payments by Mastercard and Visa-branded cards,” said Lo Bue-Said.
“This is because a large part of the Merchant Charge Fees they pay to their banks – the interchange fees – have been set in advance by Mastercard and Visa themselves rather than by market competition, leading to, we believe, inflated pricing.
“This behaviour by the card schemes costs industry a lot of money each year and inflicts even more financial pressure on our members and the wider industry.”
Interchange fees on corporate or commercial cards can average around 1.5%, and on consumer cards used by overseas visitors, they average around 1.8%.
Speaking earlier this month, Jeremy Robinson, competition litigation partner at Harcus Parker, said: “This case is about making a stand against unlawful interchange fees.
“The Supreme Court and European Court of Justice have both condemned this practice for consumer credit and debit cards. UK courts should now clamp down on commercial card and inter-regional fees.”
The class action is open to all travel businesses, large or small. Those with an annual pre-Covid turnover of £100 million or more just need to opt into the claim.
Businesses with turnover below £100 million will automatically be included unless they opt out.
An initial CAT hearing is expected before the end of the year, with a decision on whether the case can go to trail within months of that. The case will be financed by third-party litigation funder Bench Walk Advisers and is fully insured.