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Visa, MasterCard sued over price fixing

ATM groups seek class action status against card issuers

Good news for everyone annoyed by those niggling automated teller machine (ATM) access fees—a group of independent ATM operators and the National ATM Council are now carrying a torch for you.

Disgruntled ATM operators filed a suit yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that Visa and MasterCard network rules prohibit ATM operators from offering lower prices for transactions over PIN-debit networks not affiliated with the card issuers. The lawsuit charges the companies with restraint of trade and seeks class action status.

Not only does the price fixing artificially raise the price consumers pay for using ATMs, the plaintiffs say, it restricts the ATM operators’ revenues and violates antitrust laws.

“Visa and MasterCard are the ringleaders, organizers, and enforcers of a conspiracy among U.S. banks to fix the price of ATM access fees in order to keep the competition at bay,” said Jonathan Rubin of Rubin PLLC, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, in a statement. “Were it not for these anticompetitive rules, Visa and MasterCard would face real competition for ATM services, consumers would pay lower prices for using ATMs, and more ATMs would be deployed.”

About 200,000 ATMs around the U.S. are run by independent operators who comprise the proposed class, Rubin added. They represent about half of all ATMs in service nationwide.

The plaintiffs seek damages against the card issuers and ask the court to enjoin them from restricting how ATM operators charge future access fees.

The complaint, National ATM Council, Inc. et al. v. Visa, Inc., et al., can be viewed here.

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