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No Payoff For Plaintiffs Seeking To Reinstate ATM Fee Antitrust Litigation

Posted  December 9, 2010

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has denied plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider its September 16 2010, ruling that plaintiffs in the ATM Fee Antitrust Litigation have no standing to pursue their price fixing claims against an ATM network and a group of banks.  The District Court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims under the rule of Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977), that generally only direct purchasers may recover antitrust damages.

Plaintiffs, a putative class of bank customers, brought an action against the STAR ATM Network and several large banks including Bank of America, N.A., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Citibank, N.A., Suntrust, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A./Wachovia, alleging that they conspired to illegally fix interchange fees, which the card-issuer banks pay to ATM owners for each ATM transaction.  Plaintiffs alleged that after paying inflated interchange fees, the issuing banks pass on the overcharges to bank customers through increased “foreign ATM fees” – which are paid by customers when they use an ATM owned by another bank or an independent ATM operator.

As the court determined in September, plaintiffs were not the ones who paid the allegedly inflated interchange fees – their banks did.  Thus, the plaintiffs were not directly harmed.  Also, plaintiffs did not allege that defendants conspired to illegally fix the “foreign ATM fees” – the fees plaintiffs did directly pay.  As such, plaintiffs were indirect purchasers to whom the direct purchaser banks passed on all or a part of the allegedly fixed fees, and their claims were barred by the Illinois Brick indirect purchaser rule.  The Court also determined that none of the exceptions to that indirect purchaser rule applied.

Plaintiffs’ last-ditch attempt to vacate the decision was shot down.  The Court found that plaintiffs did not “present new evidence or raise an intervening change in the law” justifying vacating the decision.

Tagged in: Antitrust Litigation, Price Fixing,