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Walmart: Settlement ‘Worse Than Losing’

May 29th, 2013

And those card-brand policies, bad habits and ethical lapses would apply to any “merchant” that accepts Visa or MasterCard—not just the 8 million conventional retailers that were accepting the cards when the lawsuit was filed eight years ago, but also the roughly 26 million (and counting) small businesses and individuals using Square and similar card-swipe devices. For all of them, it comes to the same thing: Whatever Visa and MasterCard say, goes.

How did things come to this? Remember, this lawsuit wasn’t about PCI, transaction security or breach penalties. It was about interchange and card-acceptance rules. It wasn’t expanded to cover such a wide range of Visa and MasterCard rules until all the fact-finding was over. Somehow, once settlement talks began, it morphed into a huge giveaway for the card brands.

That, of course, is part of the objection from Walmart and the dozens of other retailers that signed this 74-page objection. The filing argues that the expansion to cover all those other card-brand rules was illegal and that most of the “relief” retailers are supposed to get consists of rights merchants already had or “rights” they can’t actually exercise. It also argues that the class is improperly formed, that notice was faulty, that the remaining non-objecting named class plaintiffs have conflicts of interest and that the settlement actually doesn’t address the original issues in the case. (Remember those interchange and card-acceptance rules? Post-settlement, they’ll be exactly the same.)

Officially, Tuesday’s deadline was the last chance to object to the settlement until the “fairness” hearing on September 12. That actually may not hold true, because card processor First Data (which is also a “merchant” under another expansive settlement definition) has asked for a hearing about its own objection. In theory, the shouting was supposed to be over by now. In practice, this is looking like a very long, hot summer.

And for the record, here are the other retailers and trade groups (plus one railroad) that joined Walmart in the objection: original plaintiffs Coborn’s, D’Agostino’s, Jetro, Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Cooperative Grocers Association, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association and NATSO, along with 7-Eleven, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Aldo and Call It Spring, Alon Brands, Amtrak, Amazon.com, American Eagle Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, BJ’s, Carter’s, Costco, Crate & Barrel, Darden Restaurants, David’s Bridal, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dillard’s, Family Dollar, Drury Hotels, Foot Locker, Gap, GNC, Genesco, Gymboree, HMSHost, IKEA, J. Crew, Kwik Trip, Lowe’s, Marathon Petroleum, Martin’s Super Markets, Michaels Stores, Nike, Panda Restaurant Group, Panera Bread, P.C. Richard & Son, Petco, PetSmart, RaceTrac Petroleum, REI, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Roundy’s, Sears, Speedway, Starbucks, Stein Mart, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Wendy’s, Wet Seal, Whole Foods and Zappos.com.


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