D.C. Circuit Revives ATM-Fee Class Action

Case: Osborn, et al. v. Visa Inc., et al.

Issue: Whether the plaintiffs sufficiently pled facts to prove that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to fix the prices of ATM access fees.

Case Summary: The D.C. Circuit revived an ATM-fee class action lawsuit filed by consumers and ATM providers against MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc., Bank of America NA, and three other banks alleging that the companies violated antitrust laws by conspiring to fix ATM prices.

A class of ATM providers and two consumer classes (plaintiffs) brought the suit alleging that the companies conspired to artificially inflate the price of ATM access fees charged for accessing funds outside their network. The complaint alleged that the companies’ access fee rules unlawfully prohibited ATM operators to steer customers to use less expensive cards not affiliated with Visa or MasterCard in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The D.C. district court ruled in favor of the defendants, holding that the plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to prove an injury or a conspiracy. However, on appeal, the D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling. The appellate court concluded that the plaintiffs had standing to assert their antitrust claims because the claims adequately plead economic injury. The appellate court described plaintiffs’ economic injury as “present and ongoing” through which Visa and MasterCard “insulate their networks from price competition from other networks” and “yield higher profits at the cost of ATM operators.”

Bottom Line: The case will be remanded to the district court where the judge will eventually rule on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims.

About Thomas Pinder

Thomas Pinder
Thomas Pinder is senior vice president and senior counsel for litigation in the office of ABA's general counsel.
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