The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled against Visa and Mastercard in a legal battle with retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Argos over the multilateral interchanged fees (MIFs).
The case, which dates back to 1992, relates to the MIFs levied on the retailers when cardholders make a transaction.
The court upheld an earlier Court of Appeal dated back to July 2018, to rule that the two payment giants restricted competition in the way they charged the retailers.
The Supreme Court revealed that the MIFs charged under Visa and Mastercard’s payment scheme was an unlawful restriction of European Union and UK competition law.
The ruling by Britain’s top court means that the retailers can now proceed to trial and claims compensation.
Sainsbury’s lead counsel Morgan Lewis’ partner Frances Murphy said that the retailers could potentially receive billions of pounds in damages.
Murphy said: “Sainsbury’s will now be seeking to recover the full amount of the unlawful charges it has incurred.”
Stewarts head of competition litigation Kate Pollock representing Morrisons, Asda and Argos said her clients “look forward to a swift resolution of the matter without further delay.”
In response, Mastercard said that the decision was not a final ruling and further hearings, which it expects to take place in 2021, will determine the nature of the key issues raised.
Mastercard said: “We continue to firmly believe that retailers of all sizes derive real value from our network.”
Visa said it was “disappointed that the Supreme Court did not agree with the previous High Court ruling that Visa’s UK interchange complies with competition law.
“Visa supports the decision to send the matter to a specialist tribunal so that the evidence can be properly considered.”