A recent settlement between several merchant groups and the world's two largest payment processors is drawing more criticism from experts and retailers as time goes on.
The $7.25 billion settlement between Visa and MasterCard and a number of sizable merchant groups has been at the center of controversy for some time and the criticisms of the deal have grown more intense in recent weeks, according to a report from the New York Times. Many now object to the way this deal will affect not only consumers, but also the bottom lines of businesses both large and small.
The initial $6 billion of that agreement is a cash settlement paid to the merchant groups by Visa and MasterCard, and while that seems like a sizable amount, many small business owners say that the piece of the pie they're likely to receive from that is minimal at best, the report said. Further, the remaining $1.25 billion in the deal will come in the form of swipe fees reduced to lower levels for eight months after the settlement is finalized. Some experts note this hardly makes up for years of fees that were too high, which prompted the suits in the first place.
But perhaps the most commented-upon aspect of the settlement is that merchants are now allowed to tack a surcharge onto the purchase price of any transaction involving a Visa or MasterCard account, ostensibly as a means of covering transaction fee costs, the report said. However, it's unlikely that many merchants will take advantage of their newfound power because it's likely to deter customers from making purchases, or perhaps even frequenting the businesses in question in the future. Further, the rules state that those who accept Visa, MasterCard and AmEx must apply the added fee to latter purchases as well.
"When somebody's in my store, I want them to be impressed by both the quality of my products and the service they receive," Andy Charles, the owner of Haven's Candies in the Portland, Maine, area, told the newspaper. "And if I suddenly have to get into a conversation where I'm penalizing them if they use a credit card, it doesn’t make for very good customer service."
Further, many in the retail industry have noted that a provision of the settlement, which has yet to go into effect because it still requires court approval, is even more troubling than any other rules, the report said. Specifically, the language of the deal bars any further litigation from the groups involved with relation to the swipe fees these payment processors apply in the future. That includes claims that could have been made in this suit but were left out.
Experts have also noted that rules similar to the ones set forth by the settlement which allow merchants to apply credit card payment surcharges already exists in Australia, but that few merchants there actually take advantage.