A 600-page legal document has been filed against MasterCard UK in a £14bn damages claim over illegal card charges.
Lawyers bringing the case have claimed that MasterCard UK has been imposing illegal card charges for the past 16 years.
An original legal claim emerged in July, in which the lawyers handling the case said the charges had amounted to £19bn.
Since July, MasterCard has turned over evidence which has allowed the legal firm to value the claim at £14bn. The £19bn figure was calculated before MasterCard had released any evidence.
Now, the case has actually been filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in London, officially triggering the case.
It is the first claim to be filed under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 on behalf of all UK customers and the firm handling the case said it’s the biggest in UK legal history.
Law firm Quinn Emanuel is leading the case in the UK with direction from qualified lawyer and former chief financial services ombudsman, Walter Merricks CBE, who will represent the UK consumers that have suffered loss.
Merricks said: “MasterCard has already been found to have broken competition law, the basis of which was to protect consumers, and that cannot be disputed. There is no basis upon which MasterCard can contend that its card fees were not unlawful.
“I am confident that the CAT will authorise the claim to go forward, and I look forward to the opportunity to present our case. This is a watershed moment for consumer redress in this country.”
Quinn Emanuel estimates the trial will go to court in 2018 unless MasterCard is now prepared to make UK consumers a fair settlement offer.
MasterCard has already been found to have infringed EU law by imposing charges, known as interchange fees, on businesses that accept MasterCard debit and credit cards. This followed a lengthy legal battle over 10 years.
In 2007 the European Commission ordered MasterCard to bring an end to its practice of imposing charges, after finding it had broken competition law through its interchange fees between 1992 and 2007.
In 2007 the company had the option to accept that its card fees were set at an unlawfully high level and reach a settlement with the European Commission to lower its fees, but chose not to do this.
Instead the company imposed the card fees for nearly 16 years whilst it engaged in a decade-long legal battle with the European Commission.
The European Commission won the case in September 2014 after MasterCard was found to have infringed EU law with its interchange fees, leading to yesterday’s filing of the case in the UK.