Some 46m people in the UK could potentially benefit from a case brought against Mastercard demanding £14bn (€16.5bn) in damages for allegedly charging excessive fees, according to court documents.
The legal case, brought by a former chief financial services ombudsman, alleges the company charged unlawfully high fees to stores when shoppers swiped their debit or credit cards and these were passed on to consumers in higher prices.
Mastercard is alleged to have done this for 16 years between 1992 and 2008, in more than 600 pages of documents filed at London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal.
“This was almost an invisible tax,” Walter Merricks, who is bringing the case, told the BBC.
“Mastercard has behaved disgracefully in this. They have not had the reasonableness to accept that what this was doing was damaging UK consumers.”
In a statement, Mastercard denied any wrongdoing.
“We continue to firmly disagree with the basis of this claim and we intend to oppose it vigorously,” the world’s second-largest payments network said.
The lawsuit comes after the EU’s competition regulator found, in 2014, Mastercard’s fees to store owners to process international payments within the EU to be excessive.
Law firm Quinn Emanuel said the lawsuit was the largest damages claim in British history and would be brought under a law meaning consumers would automatically be claimants unless they opt out.
Any person living in Britain who used a credit card, cash, or cheques and was over 16 years old in the period covered by the lawsuit will automatically be part of the claim.
Claimants may receive around £300 each.
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