Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd (Sainsbury's) has won a high-profile competition damages claim against MasterCard in relation to unlawfully high interchange fees charged to Sainsbury's for card payment services in the UK. In its judgment handed down on 14 July 2016, the Competition Appeal Tribunal held that MasterCard had infringed EU and UK competition laws and awarded Sainsbury's substantial damages.
This is the first judgment to be given in a raft of litigation being brought by numerous high-street retailers in the UK and Europe, alleging that MasterCard and Visa charged anti-competitive and excessive debit and credit card fees, and seeking combined damages of more than £1.2 billion. The disputes follow a subsequently overturned US settlement in 2012 in which Visa and MasterCard agreed to pay US retailers $7.25 billion – the largest antitrust settlement in US history.
Sarah Houghton, a Partner at Mishcon de Reya representing Sainsbury's, said:
"This is a good result for our client in a landmark case. This marks the first substantial award in a competition damages claim in the UK, and we believe in Europe. It has an importance well beyond the precedent it sets for claims against the MasterCard and Visa schemes."
Rob Murray, a Partner at Mishcon de Reya representing Sainsbury's, added:
"From the outset, we took a unique position in terms of our case strategy - Sainsbury's was the only claimant to streamline its claims in order to avoid getting embroiled in unnecessary or unwinnable preliminary issues. For example, it claimed only for a six-year period, rather than from 1977 as the other claimants did. As a result of our strategy, Sainsbury's has received judgment on all issues at least two years before the claims brought by other retailers involved in the wider litigation.
"The judgment is good news for the other retailers involved who will be able to rely on the Tribunal's findings."
Other retailers include Ocado, which instructed Mishcon de Reya in 2014, and John Lewis, which instructed Mishcon de Reya in June 2016 to take over the conduct of their competition damages claims in the English High Court against the MasterCard and Visa payment card schemes.
Rob Murray and Sarah Houghton, both Partners in Mishcon de Reya's Competition group, led the team advising Sainsbury's, alongside Jonothan Broadbent (Associate) and Zachery O'Brien (Associate). The team instructed Brick Court’s Mark Brealey QC and Sarah Love, One Essex Court’s Derek Spitz, and expert witnesses, Nils von Hinten Reed and Paul Reynolds, of CEG Europe.