ATM Operators Win Supreme Court Ruling; Justices Dismiss Case Clearing Way For Suits

Posted On: 12/2/2016

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TAGS: ATM Supreme Court case, ATM operators, vending operator, Visa, MasterCard, ATM fees, ATM charges

WASHINGTON -- In a move that is being heralded as a victory for independent ATM operators, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed two related cases that sought to overturn a 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court. Those lawsuits, which seek damages for consumers and ATM operators for violations of antitrust law, can now proceed.

At issue are lawsuits that accuse credit card giants Visa and MasterCard of enacting policies that protect them from competition by lower-cost ATM networks. The suits claimed those rules unfairly prohibited ATM operators from charging less when competing networks processed transactions. Also named in the litigation were Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. The plaintiffs argued that the three banks, which controlled Visa and MasterCard, established higher ATM charges prior to the credit card companies going public in 2008 and 2006.

The dismissal of the petition came prior to oral arguments, which were scheduled to take place on Dec. 7. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the cases were dismissed because the companies changed legal arguments after the justices agreed to hear the dispute. "After having persuaded us to grant certiorari on this issue ... petitioners chose to rely on a different argument in their merits briefing," the Nov. 17 Court decision read. "...The Court, therefore, orders that the writs in these cases be dismissed as improvidently granted."

The Supreme Court is known to frown on tactics that resemble "bait and switch" when it comes to presenting a case. The dismissal also closely aligns with arguments made in an amicus brief submitted in October by the ATM Industry Association, which stated the petitioners improperly expanded their argument, in effect seeking immunity from Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

"This is a huge win for the ATM industry," said ATMIA executive director David Tente. "The decision clears the way for pending antitrust cases to continue, and leaves the door open for future claims that industry stakeholders may wish to pursue."

ATM operators and consumers can now proceed to seek damages for violations of antitrust law. However, those cases are also widely seen as potentially opening a door to free market competition that will lower costs to independent ATM operators.

ATM Supreme Court case, Supreme Court building
HIGHEST COURT: A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision clears a path for antitrust lawsuits against banking and credit card giants. It may also lead to lower costs for ATM operators.