Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is urging retailers to reject a proposed $6 billion settlement that Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and major banks have agreed to pay retailers for alleged fee fixing.
The settlement, reached earlier this month, had been considered a victory for retailers. It settled a lawsuit alleging that card issuers conspired to fix merchants' fees for accepting credit cards. Retailers have long complained about the billions of dollars in "swipe" or "interchange" fees that that they have had to pay, which average about 2 percent of the price of a purchase.
Under the settlement, stores will be allowed to charge customers more if they pay with a credit card.
But the world's largest retailer said Tuesday that the settlement doesn't restrict credit card issuers from continually raising fees merchants must pay when shoppers use their cards. The Bentonville, Ark., company also says the settlement would require retailers to waive their rights to take action against card issuers.
"As Walmart continues to seek reform that will provide transparency and true competition among financial institutions, we encourage all merchants to put consumers first and reject the settlement," Wal-Mart said in a statement.
The dispute between stores and banks dates back to 2005. That's when large retailers, including Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and Walgreen Co. began filing price-fixing lawsuits against Visa, MasterCard and other banks.
Credit card companies have long defended the fees they charge stores. They say stores benefit from being able to accept credit and debit cards from customers, who often spend more when they're using plastic instead of cash or checks.
As part of the settlement, credit card companies have agreed to reduce swipe fees for eight months. The temporary reprieve on fees is valued at $1.2 billion. The settlement does not apply to debit cards, which have grown in popularity for small-value transactions.