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Dow Jones reports that "a federal judge overseeing a pending $7.25 billion class-action settlement involving Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. ordered merchant trade groups opposed to the deal to show why they should not be held in contempt over a website blasting the accord."

Earlier this month, the judge had ordered trade groups behind the website - including the National Association of Convenience Stores, National Grocers Association and National Restaurant Association - to post a banner on the site saying that its "facts,' which seek to encourager retailers to opt out of a proposed settlement with the credit card companies, were misleading.

As the Dow Jones story notes, "The pending settlement would end litigation filed in 2005 against Visa, MasterCard and several large banks that issue the payment networks' credit cards by merchants and several trade groups. The plaintiffs alleged that Visa, MasterCard and the banks conspire to set transaction fees that retailers pay at arbitrarily high levels. The fees, known as interchange, are set by Visa and MasterCard but collected by the banks that issue their cards each time a customer makes a purchase.

"The merchants also alleged the defendants have limited their ability to drive down costs by forcing them to abide by rules that have prevented them from surcharging customers who pay with credit cards." In addition, the merchants and the associations representing them argue that the proposed settlement would prevent them from ever suing the credit card companies in the future, and would allow the card companies to raise fees virtually at will.
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