The merchants’ counsel said Monday it is ready to give notice to the class members and proceed to trial in its debit card lawsuit. Constantine & Partners also said most of the key legal issues have already been decided against VISA and MasterCard in the U.S. Goverment’s antitrust case, which was won by the Government last year. Constantine & Partners says under the legal principle of collateral estoppel, the decisions in the already-decided U.S. case will likely be applied in the merchants’ case. The class-action lawsuit, filed by Wal-Mart, The Limited, Sears Roebuck, Safeway, Circuit City, three trade associations — the National Retail Federation, the International Mass Retail Association and the Food Marketing Institute — and 13 other large and small retailers, charges VISA and MasterCard with violating U.S. antitrust law by attempting to monopolize the debit card market and forcing merchants to accept off line debit cards, which carry a much higher transaction fee than online PIN debit transactions. The class action is expected to cover upwards of four million merchants. Constantine & Partners expects the trial to begin early next year.
DEBIT CARD HISTORICAL
(off-line or signature-based debit cards)
Dollar Volume 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997
VISA $324.0b $239.3b $183.8b $134.7b $ 93.7b
MasterCard $ 96.7b $ 62.6b $ 48.2b $ 35.1b $ 16.8b
TOTAL $420.7b $301.8b $232.0b $169.8b $ 110.5b
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)