Everyone who accepts credit cards—from small store owners to neighborhood restaurants—now has a way to speak out about an unfair deal that helps big banks and the credit card companies.
Merchants Object! (www.merchantsobject.com) is a new nationwide campaign to inform those with merchant services accounts that a proposed settlement to a federal lawsuit is one-sided because it will still allow Visa and MasterCard to price-fix swipe fees for their banks. Organizers also feel the settlement amount is minuscule considering the defendants are accused of price-fixing in order to secure fees that now are more than $50 billion a year and have tripled in less than a decade.
In addition, the proposed settlement requires class members to release Visa and MasterCard from liability, forever, for any anticompetitive rules currently in place (including the interchange or swipe fee rules) and/or any “substantially similar rules” instituted at any time in the future.
Scott Michaels, owner of Bull City Homebrew in Durham, N.C., is one of the first merchants to use Merchants Object! “I’m in business to sell supplies to people who like to brew beer at home…I run credit cards all the time. Of course I object to credit card companies taking more than they deserve when we do all the work! Signing up to object to the settlement was really easy,” he said.
Anyone who has accepted a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit for payment since Jan. 1, 2004 (including sellers on Ebay and other online merchants) is a member of the class of plaintiffs in this antitrust case. Others in the class include doctors, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, insurance companies, non-profits and colleges.
Illegal action by big banks and credit card companies has made swipe fees the fastest-growing operating expense for U.S. merchants, the second-highest operating expense (behind only labor), and a crushing drag on business. The proposed settlement will allow this to continue and notifying the court of the problems is the only way that the proposed settlement might be stopped.
An automated way to object and opt-out is available at: http://merchantsobject.com/opt-out-object/opt-out-object/. It can take as little as five minutes for a business to make its voice heard.
“This is a stunning giveaway to Visa and MasterCard,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement for the Congressional Record. “This is a bad deal, but it is not a done deal. The merchant plaintiffs still have to decide if they will support it.”
The federal court must receive notice from all settlement objectors by May 28—approximately nine weeks from today. Merchants Object! has a number of initiatives planned from now until then in order to let businesses know their rights.