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Federal Judge Rejects ATM Lawsuits

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A U.S. District Judge in Washington D.C has dismissed antitrust lawsuits accusing several financial behemoths of fixing automated teller machine (ATM) fees. Visa Inc. (V - Free Report) , Mastercard Incorporated (MA - Free Report) , Bank of America Corporation (BAC - Free Report) , JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM - Free Report) and Wells Fargo & Company (WFC - Free Report) were accused in the case.

The lawsuit filed in Oct 2011, implicated Visa and Mastercard of setting rules that prohibited ATM operators from offering lower prices on sovereign PIN debit card networks not associated with either of the companies. These independent networks comprise nearly 0.2 million ATM’s across the U.S.

The plaintiffs stated that the suspected unlawful agreements required operators of ATMs to charge a fixed amount even when customers use networks that charge less, compared to MasterCard and Visa.

However, in their own defense, Visa and Mastercard maintained that this type of arrangement helped customers by setting a cap on the ATM access fees, whereas the defendants contradicted that the arrangement created a base under which fees for transactions processed on other networks could not be discounted.

While dismissing the lawsuit, the judge stated that the plaintiffs had failed to produce adequate evidence to support their claims of a conspiracy by the financial institutions to charge exorbitant ATM fees. Moreover, they failed to prove that they were directly affected by the over charging of fees. Plaintiffs involve the National ATM Council, 13 owners and operators of independent non-bank ATMs that compete with bank ATMs and many individual ATM operators.

The dismissal of the lawsuit comes as a huge relief for the accused financial biggies. However, the defendants are left in the lurch as they continue to struggle in a monopolized landscape, which restricts them from luring consumers through discount on transactions executed by less expensive networks.

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