Walmart vs. Visa: Will Consumers Benefit After This Epic Legal Fight is Over?

Walmart vs. Visa: Will Consumers Benefit After This Epic Legal Fight is Over?Walmart is suing Visa over the fees the biggest U.S. retailer is charged every time a customer uses a credit or debit card.
As other big retailers have asserted, Walmart accuses Visa of conspiring with banks to illegally fix and inflate these “swipe” fees.
Walmart also alleges that the fees cost U.S. retailers and shoppers more than $350 billion between 2004 and November 2012.
The lawsuit’s outcome may help drive down swipe fees for retailers, ultimately generating some savings for customers at the check-out counters and online.
But at this point, any savings for the public is far off on the horizon as these corporate giants spend millions in legal fees over a protracted period of time.
Walmart’s complaint was filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. But it is part of a larger, ongoing legal quagmire over “swipe fees” and the influence the major card networks and their associated banks have over merchants accepting payment cards.
In December, a judge approved a settlement over card fees between 19 merchants and Visa and MasterCard. The settlement was initially valued at $7.25 billion but shrank to about $5.7 billion because some retailers opted out, including Walmart, Macy’s, Target and the National Retail Federation trade group.
Even with size and influence, Walmart has to walk a delicate balance in its fight with Visa. The retailer doesn’t want to risk driving consumers with Visa cards away if dropping Visa acceptance is the last resort.
But Walmart has launched multi-layered attack on the current card-payments system that Visa, MasterCard and its banks have built over decades. This week’s lawsuit is but one phase. Launching the Walmart credit card, which is issued by Discover Financial Services (DFS), is another. Walmart also accepts PayPal, and intends to continue to add more alternative payment options.

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