Supreme Court Brief of U.S. PIRG Education Fund in ATM Fee case

"Visa vs. Stoumbos" is before the Court's October term
Last updated: 10/26/2016

We've long been involved in fighting against unfair practices by Visa, Mastercard and the big banks that raise the "swipe fees" merchants pay to accept credit and debit cards or that deny entry by lower-cost ATM networks. In the 1990s, when the onerous practice of double-ATM surcharging began to spread, we challenged it in Congress, in states and even in local battles. We argued that the consumer's bank already charged the consumer a fee, which it shared with any "foreign" ATM owner, so the surcharge was a "double-dip." We won a citizen vote in San Francisco and a city council vote in Santa Monica but lost in the courts on preemption grounds. So did the bank commissioners of Connecticut and Iowa.

We've since supported a variety of merchant efforts, in Congress and the courts, to challenge the high swipe fees they pay to accept cards, which result in all consumers -- even cash customers -- paying more at the store, at the pump and at the ATM machine. We discuss some of that history here.

Attached is our amicus (friend of the court) brief filed last week by Litigation Director Michael Landis at the Supreme Court in support of consumers (Mary Stoumbos is the lead consumer plaintiff) and non-bank ATM owners alleging a conspiracy by Visa, Mastercard and the big banks to charge independent ATM owners high fees to join their  networks, meaning consumers consequently pay higher fees to use fewer available independent ATMs. The court accepted a bank petition challenging a lower court ruling allowing a class action by consumers and ATM owners (respondents) to proceed. You can read all the briefs here at SCOTUS Blog, but be warned, they are nearly all technical treatments of antitrust law. Our brief, on the other hand, talks about the harm anti-competitive bank and network fees and practices do to markets. We explain the history of the high costs of using ATM machines and how the unfair practices of Visa, Mastercard and the big banks in this case force independent ATM owners to pay illegally high fees to join the network, meaning consumers who want to use independent ATMs find fewer independent machines and end up paying higher fees when they do.

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