Visa Sued Over Card Fees by U.K. Retailers Including Asda

Visa Inc., which operates the world’s biggest electronic-payments network, was sued by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda unit, William Morrison Supermarkets Plc and Arcadia Group Plc over payment-processing fees.

The three companies sued Visa and its former European affiliate Visa Europe Ltd., at a London court on July 23, according to court records.

The European Union proposed caps this week on such levies, known as interchange fees, that banks can demand from retailers at 0.2 percent for debit card payments and 0.3 percent for credit cards. MasterCard Inc. is also being sued by more than a dozen companies over the fees in the U.K., including Asda and Morrison, the U.K.’s fourth-largest grocery store chain.

“We have not seen this claim,” a spokesman for Visa Europe, Mark Hooper, said in an e-mail. “We are surprised that a case might be brought and, if it was, would strongly contest it.”

Tania Foster-Brown, a spokeswoman for Arcadia, Russell Craig, a spokesman for Asda, and James French, a spokesman for Morrison, declined to comment beyond confirming the subject of the lawsuits. Comet Group Ltd., Iceland Foods Group Ltd., and six others also filed lawsuits on the same day.

The EU’s antitrust regulators have been reviewing credit and debit card fees for over a decade, warning that the way the charges are agreed is anti-competitive. The bloc’s agency said in 2007 that MasterCard’s fees for cross-border card payments violated antitrust rules, unfairly inflating the fees paid by retailers for processing payments.

While interchange fees can be agreed on by banks, card companies such as Visa and MasterCard provide default ones that are used unless lenders comes to their own bilateral arrangements.

Visa Europe split from Visa Inc. before the U.S. card company’s initial public offering in early 2008.

The case is Asda Stores Ltd. v Visa Inc. & Ors, case no. 13-984, U.K. High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division.

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