June 25 (UPI) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that retailers cannot steer customers away from using American Express credit cards to avoid higher merchant fees.
The 5-4 ruling ends a lawsuit brought by retailers in 17 states against American Express in 2010 over a provision in its contracts requiring merchants not to discourage customers from using Amex cards. American Express implemented the provision after some retailers began offering customers incentives for using other credit cards that have lower merchant fees.
Retailers said the “non-discrimination provisions” in the American Express contracts created an unreasonable restraint of trade competition.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold a lower court’s decision in American Express’ favor.
After the decision, American Express Company’s stock was up 1.34 percent, Nasdaq reports showed late Monday afternoon.
“The court’s decision is a major victory for consumers and for American Express,” American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen J. Squeri said.
“This was a long battle, but well worth the fight because important issues were at stake: consumer choice, fair market competition, and the ability to deliver innovative products and services to our customers, both consumers and merchants.”
The Retail Industry Leaders Association General Counsel released a statement opposing the decision.
“Today’s decision is a loss for American consumers,” RILA general counsel Deborah White said. “Competition in the credit card space is sorely lacking. The court’s decision to uphold the Second Circuit’s misguided approach will allow AmEx to continue to stifle competition and prevent consumers from understanding the cost of rising credit card fees.”