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U.S. appeals court denies request by retailers to expedite appeals process in interchange battle

A U.S. appeals court denied a request on Monday from Home Depot and other retailers to expedite the appeals process in the ongoing battle over a class-action settlement with Visa, MasterCard and several large financial institutions.

The court said that it was deferring briefing for the settlement’s appeal until the deal is finally green-lighted by the U.S. district court in Brooklyn, where the case is still pending. A final ruling is expected sometime next year, Fox News reports.

A Home Depot spokesman said that the settlement is inadequate both for consumers and retailers.

“It offers little change to the anticompetitive practices of Visa and MasterCard, while it grants virtual immunity from future antitrust challenges for these financial-services companies and their banking partners,” the spokesman said, according to Fox News. “With that in mind, we have filed our objections with the court and continue to weigh our options with regard to the settlement.”

The lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleges that Visa and MasterCard colluded with issuing banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, to fix interchange—or “swipe”—fees unreasonably high.

In July, the companies reached a settlement that would total more than $6 billion in payments to retailers, as well as a temporary reduction in interchange fees worth $1.2 billion. The card companies also agreed to make rule changes long considered unfair by merchants, including a policy that prohibits merchants from surcharging consumers who pay with credit cards, Fox News reports.

As a result of preliminary approval by a U.S. district court, the rule changes are scheduled to take effect in January. Several large retailers, including Walmart and Target, along with industry trade groups, have lobbied against the settlement, maintaining that the agreement would protect the card companies from future lawsuits.

The National Grocers Association and National Association of Convenience Stores, both of which objected to the deal, filed notices of appeal of preliminary approval last month.

“While we are disappointed with the ruling, we are very confident in our position and will be prepared to show at the final approval hearing that the settlement both violates due process and is plainly inadequate as a solution to the market failures that plague this industry,” Jeff Shinder, a managing partner at Constantine Cannon LLP, which is representing several plaintiffs in the suit, said, according to Fox News.

Proponents of the deal maintain that the agreement will assist merchants in controlling their costs associated with accepting credit cards and that critics are trying to garner support for legislation that would permanently reduce credit card swipe fees.

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