Card payments terminal chip and pin

Major convenience sector players including Co-op, Motor Fuel Group, Nisa and Bestway are considering legal action against Visa and Mastercard for violations of competition law in relation to card charges.

A supreme court ruling in June ended a long and complex battle involving Sainsbury’s, the European Commission, Asda, Argos, Morrisons and others who had all claimed the multilateral interchange fees (MIFs) charged by the customer’s bank to the merchant’s breached competition law.

The two card payments companies were found liable after the court upheld an earlier judgement that the inability for merchants to negotiate the fees with banks was anti-competitive.

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Though the level of repayments owed to the retailers was not specified, one expert said it could be equivalent to six years of MIFs, and an earlier court trial put the price at £69m.

Nisa documents seen by betterRetailing this week revealed that convenience players had made similar claims. They read: “Co-op has made a claim and is now working with their professional advisors to enable similar claims to be made by Nisa partners.”

It is understood that Co-op is part of a consortium of retailers looking to take combined action against the payment companies. Bestway also confirmed its financial team is considering joining efforts to reclaim fees from the card companies.

Despite Co-op offering to help Nisa partners seek redress from Visa and Mastercard, it also warned that “smaller claims may not reach a minimum threshold and this will be dependent on the overall total claim”.

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Experts told betterRetailing that despite also having paid the “anti-competitive” fees, small shops may struggle to receive compensation individually.

A source at a law firm associated with an earlier ruling who asked not to be identified said: “There’s a lot of people digesting the supreme court ruling before launching their own claim, but for small shops, unless there’s a PPI-style arrangement, it’s unlikely they will make a successful claim on their own.”

CMSPI is a payments consultancy working on behalf of merchants to help them understand the scale of their potential MIF claims.

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Contracts manager Travis Ward said the group had helped “close to 70” retailers since the June ruling, including a “pretty significant” number of convenience players.

Asked whether small local shops could achieve compensation, he responded: “It may not be worthwhile on their own… but we have seen small shops coming together to make it work.”

Ward added that trade groups representing convenience stores would be well placed to organise collective cases.

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