VISA/Master Charge Class Action Lawsuit Settled

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Merchants please pay attention. A 'merchant' is defined here as _anyone_ who has accepted Visa/MC cards in payment for a purchase at _anytime_ during the eleven year period 1992 through 2003. If you sold anything during that period of time, and accepted a credit/debit card as payment, then you are a merchant, and you are entitled to relief in the lawsuit now settled. Read on ... PAT]



The Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation is a class action lawsuit that was filed and litigated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York. The Class consists of all businesses and organizations in the United States that accepted Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards for payment at any time during the period October 25, 1992 to June 21,

2003. The Class Plaintiffs claimed that, through their "Honor All Cards" policies, Visa and MasterCard forced merchants to accept Visa and MasterCard signature debit card transactions at supracompetitive prices. (Visa and MasterCard's signature debit products are also referred to as Visa Check, MasterMoney or Debit MasterCard.) The merchants also claimed that Visa and MasterCard were attempting to monopolize the debit card business in the United States. In April 2003, just as the trial was about to begin, Visa and MasterCard decided it was in their best interest to settle with the plaintiffs' Class.


As part of the settlement, Visa and MasterCard agreed to eliminate their "Honor All Cards" policies, which required merchants that accepted their credit cards to also accept their signature debit card transactions. Prior to this untying of credit and debit, they also agreed to lower debit card fees for an interim period by one-third. In addition, they agreed to re-label the Visa Check and MasterMoney debit cards with the word "DEBIT" on the front and to do other things related to the untying of debit cards from credit cards. Visa and MasterCard also agreed to pay $3.05 billion over time into a Settlement Fund. This Settlement Fund will be used to provide compensation to Class Members, and will be distributed to Class Members after the attorneys fees, expenses and cost of notice and administration approved by the Court have been deducted.


You are a member of the Class if you or your business or organization in the United States accepted Visa and/or MasterCard debit and credit cards for payment at any time during the period October 25, 1992 through June 21, 2003.


Based on the Court's final order, Lead Counsel Constantine Cannon, are now charged with the task of distributing the proceeds of the settlement to all eligible Class Members. To assist in this process, Lead Counsel and the Court have authorized The Garden City Group, Inc. ("GCG") to act as Claims Administrator. The first step, according to the Court order, is for GCG to mail Claim Forms, by September 29,

2005, to all Class Members that have previously been identified.

If you do not receive your Claim Form within a few weeks of the mailing, but believe you are entitled to one, please call the toll-free telephone number, above, or click here to request one through this website.

The Claim Forms and accompanying Instructions will explain everything you need to know to enable you to participate in the settlement and receive your pro rata share of the settlement proceeds. However, if you need more information, please consult this website or feel free to call the toll-free number. Among the information contained on this site are frequently asked questions, a detailed overview of the calculation of the payment awards, personalized information regarding your own claim calculation, the Amended Plan of Allocation, and the expert reports setting forth the methodologies for estimating Cash Payments (see the Fisher Allocation Declarations).

Of course, you may have questions that cannot be answered by information on this site. Operators are available toll-free (at the number above) to take your calls and answer questions related to the settlement. You will also be able to leave messages for the Claims Administrator and for Lead Counsel.

Lead Counsel and GCG are committed to distributing settlement proceeds as quickly as possible. In fact, the Court has ordered that regular quarterly payments be made. Therefore, the faster you submit your claim, the faster you can be paid. However, in order to receive your payment as early as possible, you must complete your Claim Form correctly and in its entirety. Any deficiencies in your claim may delay payment. Also, while you have the right to challenge your claim calculation if you wish, please understand that the adjudication of such a challenge may delay your ultimate payment.

Also, in order to establish a right to share in the Settlement Fund, Class Members may be required to provide information showing that they accepted Visa and/or MasterCard transactions for payment at any time between October 25, 1992 and June 21, 2003. While you will not be required to submit such documentation with your Claim Form, you may be subsequently asked to produce such documentation to confirm your entitlement to a Cash Payment.

Finally, it is your responsiblity to advise GCG of any change of address after you submit your Claim Form.

If you have more questions, please telephone the claims administrator at 1-888-641-4437. DO NOT telephone the clerk of the court, nor the attornies involved.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: There were many, many pages as part of the web site the claims administrator put up, including the lengthy and complex history of the litigation, etc. The essence seems to be that in order to accept VISA/MC you are (were) required to accept their debit cards as well as their credit cards. Some merchants did not the terms VISA/MC gave them. Walmart was one such merchant. After two years of litigation, VISA/MC decided to settle the lawsuit against them on this matter, but the court ruled that _all_ merchants -- not just the big Walmart-like merchants -- were entitled to relief as well. If the court knows about you, then you _should_ get the paperwork any time now, if it has not already arrived. You can confirm your participation in the Class and make other arrangements as needed with the Administrators by calling 888-461-4437 on or before September 29, 2005. PAT]
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