The likes of Target and Starbucks are about to enter round 2 of the heavyweight fight against Visa and Mastercard. The settlement, which is roughly $7.2 billion, will bring an end to 7 years of litigation concerning the credit card companies themselves and big merchants, such as Target, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart. The large merchants are protesting the proposed answer over “swipe fees” that they are ordered to pay in return for granting their customers quick service to their credit cards. The underlying issue is that the nearly 8 million merchants are saying the deal is unfair for them, claiming the credit card companies are in bed with the banks and are focused on monetizing with no regard for business. The economics of the settlement are also in question, as well as the $550 million tied up in a preliminary deal between the two parties poised to stop the bleeding.
To date, 10 of the 19 trade groups against the litigation have already indicated that they will vehemently protest the deal. Interestingly enough the consumer knowledge of these swipe fees may have the opposite desired effect that the credit card companies are hoping for. If a consumer knows they are going to be charged for swiping their card there is a great chance they will pay via cash or other methods. This would lead to less money for the credit card companies and also sacrifice the customer service and efficiency, which companies like Wal-Mart and Target depend on. Other sides contest that it will actually produce competition for all parties, as well as lower consumer cost.
This proposed settlement would be the tip of the iceberg had we not alluded to the problem already. This is a problem that does not show any signs of slowing down; surely it will carry well on into 2013. Both sides, the credit card companies and the big merchants, show no signs of compromise. Unfortunately for both sides, the resolution to this issue is not something as simple as swiping a card at the register.