Overriding objections from an impressive array of major retailers and trade associations, a federal judge granted preliminary approval earlier this month to a $7.25 billion class action settlement in an anti-trust suit against MasterCard and Visa, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The ATM Industry Association and the National ATM Council each filed "friend of the court" briefs in the case, joining the plaintiffs in expressing concerns about the settlement.

The ATM groups fear that overly its overly broad use of terminology referring to the nature of transactions could later be used to include ATM operators in the settlement, even though they are not a party to the case and will receive no damages if the settlement should go through.

For their part, retailers opposed to the settlement argue that the terms of the settlement itself are too broad — in that it prohibits them from lodging any future action against Visa and MasterCard ever.

Meanwhile, the card companies have said that parties opposed to the settlement would like to scuttle it in order to clear the way for legislation that would impose permanent limits on credit card swipe fees — as the Durbin Amendment had done with debit card swipe fees.

At a hearing in the case in Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson said that arguments against the settlement were not sufficient to stop the settlement from proceeding (in fact, the WSJ article quoted the judge as saying that opponents were "overstating" matters).

Gleeson said he planned to appoint an expert counsel to determine the value to retailers of the merchant surcharging allowance in the settlement, the WSJ article said. The judge also said that preliminary approval was in no way an indication that the settlement ultimately would be approved, as the bar for final approval is significantly higher. The next hearing in the case likely will not take place until after the first of next year.

For more on this topic, visit the transaction processing research center.

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