American Express stock is up on the news that the company has won a Supreme Court verdict in a case involving credit card fees. The ruling, which the company won in a five-to-four vote, found that American Express’ rules regarding services for the company’s merchants do not violate antitrust laws.
The case revolved around the company’s processing terms and fees for retailers. Merchants using the company’s platform are not allowed to offer rival card discounts or promotions that involve lower fees. The lawsuit claims that the practice causes consumers to pay higher fees due to merchants having to pay higher fees to use American Express.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for consumers and for American Express. It will help to promote competition and innovation in the payments industry,” states an Amex spokesperson.
Opponents of the ruling claim that the ruling is a major loss for American consumers, citing a lack of competition in the credit card space. Consumers have a limited amount of options for trade lines, and the ruling will allow American Express to continue to stifle competition with strict promotion and discount offerings.
The lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department and originally included American Express, Visa and Mastercard. A lower court previously ruled that American Express’ rules had stifled competition.
Visa and Mastercard both settled with the government prior to the start of the trial.
Following the ruling, merchants who have agreements with Mastercard are not authorized to steer consumers to use competing credit cards. This means not allowing the merchant to even post a sign that would encourage consumers to use a credit card other than American Express.
The lawsuit was originally filed eight years ago at a time when the financial crisis was ongoing and credit card companies dealt with high consumer debt levels. The original lawsuit was won by the Obama administration in 2015, but the ruling was tossed by a September 2016, three-judge panel for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
American Express calls the latest ruling a “major victory for consumers and for American Express.” The company claims that the ruling is an important part of the battle for consumer choice and fair market competition.
Retail industry groups disagreed with the company’s statement, claiming that the decision causes higher fees to be passed on to the consumer and inflates the price of goods in stores. Experts claim that the United States has the highest fraud and costs in the payments card market and that the ruling is following the status quo.