Mastercard has been ordered to pay supermarket group Sainsbury's £68.6 million plus interest after a UK Competition Appeal Tribunal ruled that historic interchange fees charged to the retailer were too high.

The Sainsbury's case is one of multiple claims filed by retailers against Mastercard and Visa in the UK relating to alleged over-excessive fees and anti-competitive practices.

In a statement issued to Essential Retail, payments consultancy CMS Payments Intelligence said the ruling could have a big impact on retail.

"Out of the 20 merchants that have already initiated legal proceedings against Mastercard, we have seen only two outcomes so far," it noted.

"Interestingly, Sainsbury's verdict we have seen today is much larger than the amount Tesco settled at last year – £39 million despite Tesco's card volumes being much higher. This ruling could pave the way for more UK merchants to make historic claims against Mastercard."

In a dedicated statement released following Thursday's verdict, Mastercard said: "On first look, we are grateful that the court found that significant benefits flow to both retailers and cardholders from interchange in the UK.

"What's interesting is that the court concluded that a lawful level of credit interchange for the UK market would be over 65% higher than the 30bps rate cap imposed in the 2015 Interchange Fee Regulation ("IFR"). At the same time, the court criticised and rejected the 'merchant indifference test', the cornerstone for the IFR. 

"While we are disappointed to see liability as part of the finding, we note that in awarding a limited portion of the claimed damages, the court concluded that Sainsbury's did not pass through interchange costs to consumers in the form of higher prices."

Mastercard said that it expects to take a pre-tax charge of approximately $90 million as a special item in its second quarter 2016 financial results, reflecting the judgment.

It also announced it is "evaluating the implications of the judgment to determine if any adjustment to the judgment amount or additional charges for other costs would be required".

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CMS Payments Intelligence