Sainsbury wins £69m in Mastercard card-free dispute

London - Sainsbury was awarded £69m by a London judge following a long-running dispute over fees charged on card transactions with Mastercard.

Mastercard charges on UK credit and debit card transactions "restricted competition by object and effect,” according to a Competition and Appeal Tribunal judgment published on Thursday.

The judgment is the first in a series of claims brought by retailers in the UK and Europe, alleging that Mastercard and Visa charged anti-competitive and excessive fees on debit and credit card transactions. The retailers are seeking combined damages of more than £1.2bn.

"This marks the first substantial award in a competition damages claim in the UK, and we believe in Europe,” Sarah Houghton, a lawyer at Mishcon de Reya advising the supermarket chain, said in an email. “It has an importance well beyond the precedent it sets for claims against the Mastercard and Visa schemes.”

The £69m victory is equivalent to more than a day’s sales for Sainsbury, which brought in £23.5bn last year.

The ruling follows news that British consumers are preparing a £19bn class action lawsuit against Mastercard. Walter Merricks, a lawyer who once led the UK organization that handles consumer disputes with banks, has hired Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to draft a lawsuit they plan to file by September, according to a July 6 statement.

The claim would be the UK’s biggest and one of the first filed under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Though the ruling resulted in compensation for Sainsbury, the tribunal may have boosted Mastercard’s defense against that class action, after it concluded the retailer didn’t pass the costs to consumers in the form of higher prices, Mastercard said in a statement.

The credit-card provider will take a pretax charge of about $90m in its second quarter to cover the judgment, it said on Thursday in a BusinessWire statement.

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