Multimillion Class-Action Credit Card Settlement for SMEs

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

Small businesses accepting Mastercard or Visa credit cards as payment for the last two decades could receive a portion of a recent multimillion-dollar class-action settlement with Visa and Mastercard. The settlement is another small step toward ensuring fairness for many small businesses dealing with expensive credit card processing fees, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“Many business owners find dealing with credit card fees unnecessarily confusing, and it is almost impossible to compare rates between different processors. Small merchants have been bearing the cost of premium cards while the industry restricts their right to surcharge or refuse24 those cards,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB. “The class action settlement is an important win for small businesses, and any financial relief at this challenging time is welcome news.”

Settlement puts money back in small merchants’ pockets

The portion of the settlement a business can receive depends on its size and average annual revenue. Small merchants with annual revenue of less than $5 million may claim $30 per year they incurred merchant discount fees between 2001 and 2021, for a maximum total of $600. Businesses have until September 30 to register.

The pandemic has exacerbated the shift from cash payments to online or e-commerce tools, with 92% of businesses now accepting debit/credit cards as payment. 

The accelerated growth in online payments and their associated costs have significantly impacted small firms throughout the pandemic. Due to pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, the use of cash plummeted as sales shifted to credit cards – particularly tap and more expensive e-commerce transactions. 

Merchants will have the power to add surcharges starting in October 2022 

Under the settlement, Mastercard and Visa will also modify their surcharging rules, allowing small businesses to choose to pass on their merchant credit card fees to customers. This change is expected to come into effect in October 2022.

“For more than a decade, CFIB has been fighting to ensure small businesses are treated fairly and transparently by the credit card industry. While very few merchants are expected to add surcharges for card acceptance, we believe the power to do so will give them additional clout in pushing back against future fee hikes,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president. 

In addition to these changes, CFIB is actively lobbying government to deliver on its 2021 election commitment to lower ongoing credit card processing fees for small business. 

“With pressure on almost every line in a small business budget, further relief on payments processing fees is urgently needed,” Kelly concluded.

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