First American-Style Class Suit Seeking Certification in UK

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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The first major American-style class action suit to take place in the United Kingdom is going before the Competition Appeals Tribunal on January 25, 2017 to gain final approval on class certification. The colossal £14 billion suit, originally filed in September 2016, centers on MasterCard’s controversial interchange fees and involves over 46 million UK consumers.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that MasterCard’s interchange fees resulted in illegal profits for the company and artificially inflated the cost of items consumers purchased on their MasterCards from 1992-2007. The suit follows just two years after the European Commission declared the company’s international interchange fees to be too high and an impediment to international cross-border transactions.

Interchange fees, which were originally established as a means for banks to avoid usury and truth-in-lending laws, have evolved into a major moneymaker for credit card companies over the past two decades. Plaintiffs in the suit are calling for redress to all affected consumers in order to ensure that MasterCard does not benefit from its dubious practices.

MasterCard has assured plaintiffs that it intends to “vigorously” oppose these claims and the trial is projected to take place sometime in 2018. In order to ensure that the plaintiffs have the resources to fight such a long haul legal battle against a well-financed defendant, plaintiffs’ attorneys at Quinn Emanuel have retained up to £40 million ($49M) in financing from Chicago-based litigation funder, Gerchen Keller Capital. The deal between the company and Quinn Emanuel is the largest investment in a non-American litigation to have occurred to date.

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