Visa, Mastercard to pay $197 million to settle consumer ATM fee lawsuit

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) – Visa and Mastercard have agreed to pay $197 million to resolve a class action by millions of consumers accusing the financial payment companies of keeping cash access fees artificially high.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers revealed the proposed accord on Wednesday in a filing in Washington, D.C., federal court. The settlement involves consumers who withdrew cash from bank-operated ATMs since 2007.

Two other related class actions — one from consumers who used non-bank ATMs and a third from businesses that own independent ATMs — are pending in D.C. federal court.

The proposed deal is subject to court approval. The defendants have all denied any wrongdoing.

Visa will pay $104.6 million in the accord, and Mastercard will pay $92.8 million, the settlement papers showed. The bank defendants earlier settled claims for $66 million.

Visa and Mastercard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said the settlement will “deliver immediate and assured relief.”

The plaintiffs in the three cases said Visa and Mastercard’s ATM network rules caused them to pay artificially higher amounts for access fees. Collectively, they were seeking damages of more than $9 billion.

The resolution comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in April turned down an appeal from Visa and Mastercard challenging a lower court judge’s ruling allowing the groups of plaintiffs to band together to sue as class actions.

Visa and Mastercard had argued that the judge failed to conduct a “rigorous analysis” before certifying the class-actions.

The proposed settlement class was estimated to have at least 175 million members.

Consumers will have a chance to object to the terms of the settlement, including the amount of the fund and any legal fees that awarded

Visa and Mastercard are defendants in a long-running legal proceeding in Brooklyn federal court over claims that they overcharged merchants and others in transactions involving debit and credit cards.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by Leigh Jones and Bill Berkrot)