Visa, MasterCard fight off new UK mass actions over fees for now

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LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) - Global payments processors Visa and Mastercard have fought off a new set of lawsuits over fees charged to retailers, with a London tribunal ruling on Thursday that the proposed collective cases cannot proceed for now.

The two firms already face a long list of lawsuits in London over so-called multilateral interchange fees, which retailers pay when consumers use a card to shop.

Visa and Mastercard are each being sued by hundreds of claimants at London's Competition Appeal Tribunal, which is currently managing the various cases together.

Special purpose vehicle Commercial and Interregional Card Claims (CICC) brought another set of lawsuits against Visa and Mastercard last year, seeking damages on behalf of merchants which were allegedly overcharged.

At a hearing in April, CICC asked the tribunal to certify its cases under the United Kingdom's collective proceedings regime, which is roughly equivalent to the class action regime in the United States.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal refused to certify the cases in a written ruling on Thursday, but gave CICC eight weeks to amend their lawsuits if they wished to proceed.

Visa and Mastercard's lawyers said at April's hearing that the need for CICC's cases is undermined by the fact that thousands of merchants have already sued them, with more than 2,300 UK claimants currently suing Visa.

A Mastercard spokesperson welcomed the tribunal's decision, saying in a statement that "we ... believe that, if a revised claim is made, it should equally fail".

"We have always maintained the claim is fundamentally flawed and has never been about helping businesses – it's lawyers and their financial backers out to make money for themselves," they added. (Reporting by Sam Tobin; editing by William James)

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