Judge Throws Out $30 Billion Visa And Mastercard Settlement

In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie has rejected a monumental $30 billion antitrust settlement involving Visa and Mastercard.

This settlement was designed to curb the fees that merchants pay to accept credit and debit cards issued by these two giants.

This decision, handed down on Tuesday, could dramatically alter the landscape for both the payment networks and merchants across the nation.

Background of the Settlement

The proposed settlement, announced in March, was aimed at resolving longstanding litigation that dates back to 2005.

This litigation focused on the so-called “swipe fees” or interchange fees that merchants are required to pay to accept Visa and Mastercard transactions.

These fees are a significant source of revenue for banks and other card issuers, who often reinvest these profits into reward programs to incentivize consumer spending.

Judge Brodie’s Ruling

Judge Brodie, presiding over the case in Brooklyn, determined that she was unlikely to grant final approval for the settlement.

Consequently, she denied the plaintiffs’ request for preliminary approval. Her decision suggests that Visa and Mastercard might need to negotiate a more merchant-friendly agreement or potentially face a trial.

The Details of the Proposed Settlement

The rejected settlement included several provisions intended to benefit merchants.

Among these were a reduction in the average swipe fee by at least 0.04 percentage points for three years, and maintaining the average swipe fee at least 0.07 percentage points below the current rate for five years.

Additionally, Visa and Mastercard had agreed to cap these rates for five years and to eliminate anti-steering provisions, thus granting merchants greater flexibility in offering discounts or imposing surcharges.

Implications of the Decision

Judge Brodie’s ruling has significant implications. It may compel Visa and Mastercard to negotiate terms more favorable to merchants, or otherwise, prepare for a potentially protracted and costly trial.

Merchants, who have long considered the swipe fees—ranging between 1.5% to 3.5%—as excessively burdensome, may see this as a victory.

In 2023 alone, these fees amounted to approximately $72 billion, according to the Nilson Report.

Legislative Context and Industry Response

The ruling comes amidst ongoing legislative efforts to further regulate the payment processing industry.

Notably, some U.S. senators are advocating for the Credit Card Competition Act, which aims to enable merchants to use alternative payment networks for processing Visa and Mastercard transactions.

This legislation, if passed, could introduce more competition and potentially lower costs for merchants.

Ongoing Legal Battles

It’s important to note that this rejection does not impact a separate $5.6 billion class action settlement involving Visa, Mastercard, and around 12 million merchants.

This settlement was upheld by a federal appeals court in Manhattan in March 2023, following the rejection of a previous $7.25 billion settlement that was deemed insufficient by some retailers.

Future of the Litigation

The case, formally known as “In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation,” continues in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York under case number 05-md-01720.

This ongoing litigation could set significant precedents for the payment processing industry and its regulation.

Impact on Merchants and Consumers

For merchants, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, the judge’s decision offers a glimmer of hope for more equitable terms when it comes to swipe fees.

Reducing these fees could potentially lead to lower prices for consumers, as businesses may pass on some of the savings.

Moreover, the ability to impose surcharges or offer discounts could help merchants manage their costs more effectively and provide better pricing strategies to attract customers.


Judge Brodie’s decision to reject the $30 billion settlement proposal marks a pivotal moment in the battle over interchange fees.

This ruling could lead to a more favorable environment for merchants, fostering greater competition and fairness in the payment processing industry.

As the case progresses, all eyes will be on how Visa and Mastercard respond—whether through renegotiation or gearing up for a trial that could reshape the financial landscape for years to come.

This decision underscores the ongoing tension between major financial networks and the merchants who rely on their services, setting the stage for potentially transformative changes in how credit and debit card transactions are processed and regulated in the United States.

Leave a Comment