Ridout Barron


Prohibitive fees jeopardize business profitability

After the owner of a furniture company alleged that credit card fees are making it too expensive for her to run her business, the British Columbia Supreme Court agreed that she could pursue a class-action lawsuit against 11 banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions. She says that those companies are involved in a conspiracy because merchants must pay higher fees on gold, platinum and premium credit cards but cannot legally tack additional fees onto those customers. This forces sellers to bear the brunt of those fees or increase all their prices. Reports say that the fees cost $5 billion annually.

Other lawsuits have been in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec, but they are waiting to see the outcome of the case in B.C. A lawyer for the woman who filed the case observed that the fees are excessively high in Canada and that other countries have taken steps to address the issue. He hopes financial institutions in the country will follow suit. In 2013, Canada's Competition Bureau brought up similar claims and said that the fees were some of the highest globally. However, the Competition Tribunal did not hear the case.

The woman wants the financial institutions and credit card companies to repay her for all of the fees they have collected illegally. Visa, MasterCard and a number of Canadian banks were named in the lawsuit. Bank of America was initially named as a defendant, but the parties have already agreed to a settlement. The business and commercial law claims have not been proven in court.

When individuals are trying to run a business, they may be protected from unfair business practices of other institutions that would otherwise limit their ability to make a profit. A business and commercial lawyer might be able to help clients who want to pursue legal action against other businesses allegedly participating in predatory practices.

Source: Sun News Network, "Lawsuit against credit card fees can go ahead, British Columbia judge rules", March 28, 2014

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