Mastercard Faces Class Action for Overcharging Customers

Jan 6, 2021


The UK Supreme Court has allowed a £14 billion class action against Mastercard to go forward, with the company accused of overcharging 46 million Britons for the past 15 years.

The landmark case—which would allow affected people to claim £300 each, if successful—follows on from Mastercard’s lost appeal against a 2007 European Commission ruling that its fees were anti-competitive.

It is set against a backdrop of rising anger over the increasing price of credit and debit card transactions, with representatives of retailers, small businesses and hospitality across Britain recently joining forces to call for ‘decisive action’ in tackling the issue. A British Retail Consortium payments survey—covered on this site—found the cost of accepting card payments reached £950 million in 2019, making up the vast majority of overall payment costs of £1.1 billion.

Mastercard has been… imposing excessive card transaction charges over a prolonged period in a way it must have known would impose an invisible tax on UK consumers.
"Walter MerricksSolicitor leading the Mastercard class action

The case is now progressing to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, with a hearing expected later this year.

For businesses, cash payments are far less costly than card transactions, and—particularly for small businesses—offer the added bonus of tips. Overall, more money from a cash transaction goes directly to a business.

For consumers, paying in cash costs nothing, and the UK Government is making welcome moves to protect cash as part of the payments landscape, with plans including a trial of purchase-free cashback services in small shops aimed at improving access to physical money, especially in rural areas.

Last Updated: Jan 5, 2021