NEW YORK – A second plaintiffs group, the National Grocers Association, weighed in against the Visa and MasterCard antitrust settlement on Thursday, increasing the odds against a federal judge eventually approving the historic deal.

“This proposed settlement agreement fails in this regard by allowing Visa and MasterCard to continue their dominant anticompetitive practices,” said Peter Larkin, president and chief executive of the trade group, which represents more than 1,200 companies.

The grocers’ position follows similar opposition registered over the past few days by the National Association of Convenience Stores, another of the original 19 plaintiffs in the case, and retail giants Walmart and Target Corp.

If merchants representing 25% of Visa and MasterCard’s credit card sales volume opt out of the settlement, the card networks have the ability to cancel it. In any event the deal must be approved by a federal judge, who will field comments from the affected parties over the next six months.

The grocers’ group said the ability to charge customers extra for using a credit card includes “burdensome restrictions,” which makes it “unlikely that many of NGA’s members will be able to make this provision workable.” The provision would require merchants to post signs notifying customers that they surcharge and include the amount of any fee on receipts, measures that the card networks said are intended to protect consumers.

Under the historic antitrust settlement, Visa and MasterCard have agreed to pay merchants $6 billion to settle civil claims that the two cards companies violated provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act by conspiring the fix fees for credit card transactions. A group of a dozen banks will pay an additional $1.2 billion as part of the settlement.

The settlement will also allow merchants to start touting other forms of payment or to surcharge Visa and MasterCard users in order to encourage cheaper transaction modes.


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