Wal-Mart Stores filed a lawsuit accusing Visa of conspiring with banks to fix transaction fees, the latest salvo of a multiyear legal fight between retailers and card issuers.
Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, is one of dozens of large merchants that dropped out of a nationwide antitrust settlement with Visa and MasterCard Inc. to pursue their own lawsuits. The company filed its complaint alleging violations of U.S. antitrust law in federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on March 25.
"Visa's monopoly power has enabled it to dictate price and inhibit competition," Wal-Mart said in its complaint.
The settlement Wal-Mart dropped out of, initially valued at $7.25 billion, was approved by a Brooklyn, N.Y., federal judge in December. It's now worth about $5.7 billion after reductions for the merchants that bowed out.
Visa sued the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer in June to try to stop it from bringing its own case, saying in a complaint filed in Brooklyn that it sought to prevent "the continuation of endless, wasteful litigation between the parties."
Paul Cohen, a spokesman for Visa, declined to comment on the filing.
In its complaint, Wal-Mart seeks unspecified money damages, tripled under federal antitrust law. Wal-Mart claims the card company's conduct caused it to suffer "enormous damage" between January 2004 and late November 2012. No banks are named as defendants in the case.
A U.S. appeals court on March 21 rejected a challenge by Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers to federal rules governing how much banks can collect for debit card transactions, leaving in place an October 2011 rule capping the average swipe fee about 24 cents per transaction.
While banks had objected to the limit, retailers contended that if the Federal Reserve, which set the rate, had followed the law the fees they paid on each swipe of a customer's card would have been cut more and network competition enhanced.