£14bn Mastercard class action goes to Court of Appeal
The man who is single-handedly battling to force one of the world’s largest credit card companies to reimburse British consumers over allegedly illegal fees is taking his case to the Court of Appeal.
Lawyers for Walter Merricks, the former financial services ombudsman, said on Friday that they had applied for permission to appeal against a decision by the Competition Appeal Tribunal earlier this year that the £14 billion landmark class action claim had no merit.
In a statement from the US law firm Quinn Emanuel’s London office, Merricks’ legal team said there was “legal uncertainty as to whether there is a direct right of appeal to the Court of Appeal or whether it needs to go to the High Court for a judicial review, hence filings being made in both courts”.
Merricks - a qualified solicitor who is a former senior official at the Law Society of England and Wales and the current chairman of Impress, the state-approved press regulator - said he was “determined to pursue this claim”. He pointed out that in 2007 the European Commission ruled that Mastercard had broken competition rules by setting transaction fees at an unlawful and excessive level for 16 years.
Merricks argued that the company’s practice “inevitably led to consumers paying higher prices than we should have done because retailers would have passed on these costs. “Since that time Mastercard has done nothing to make recompense to consumers for its wrongdoing,” he said. “The total amount of the overcharges fell either on retailers, if they did in fact absorb the costs, or on consumers, which is where at least most of the cost likely fell as retailers looked to recover the fees they were paying through higher retail prices.”
Merricks said he was also bringing the claim because the “collective action regime was brought into being by parliament to help access to redress where proven wrongdoers like Mastercard have inflicted damage on a wide class of consumers. In our case it would be totally impractical for members in the class to bring claims on an individual basis, and if our case is not allowed to proceed on a class-wide basis a vast number of individuals who suffered loss get no compensation”.
Mastercard has said that in its view an appeal against the appeal tribunal’s decision would be “without merit”.