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Visa, Mastercard reach $7 billion settlement over fees

Visa and MasterCard credit card logos are seen on a sign in Washington on March 30, 2012.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly described the way merchants would be able to handle cash purchases under the terms of a settlement with the credit card companies. The agreement allows for merchants to charge extra for purchases using a credit card. The text has been corrected.


Jeremy Hobson: It's being called the largest anti-trust class action settlement in U.S. history. Visa and Mastercard, along with the big banks, have agreed to pay more than $6 billion to retailers. The retailers had argued that the credit companies conspired to fix the prices that retailers have to pay when people buy things with credit cards.

And the settlement is likely to affect all of us, as Marketplace's Scott Tong reports.


Scott Tong: Retail merchants stand to get most of the settlement money. And the credit card industry will cut the fees they charge to process transactions when you and I swipe.

Economist Mike Moebs in Chicago says it puts a dent in the market power of the plastic industry -- namely Visa.

Mike Moebs: The Visa board really controls pricing process. This is at a minimum a very tight oligopoly -- almost a cartel.

The settlement lets merchants tell the public how much the credit card companies charge them in fees. Merchants can also charge extra for credit purchases.

Bert Foer at the Antitrust Institute, a think tank, thinks it all injects competition into the payment system, which no longer will be dictated by the banks.

Bert Foer: The swipe fee, that will go down, and eventually that will result in lower prices.

When, and if this takes effect, is subject to the lawyers. A group representing convenience stores says they’ll reject the deal, and it all has to be approved by a court before anything takes effect.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.
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