Supreme Court in the UK allowed Friday a class-action lawsuit against the credit-card company Mastercard to move forward. Mastercard could have to pay U.K. consumers as much as 14 billion pounds ($18.5 billion). The company overcharged businesses that accepted the company’s credit and debit cards. Fees were passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, the suit claims. The European Commission ruled that some fees charged by Mastercard between 1992 and the end of 2007 were too high and restricted competition. The suit seeks a payment of about 300 pounds for everyone who was over 16 and lived in the U.K. at the time.
The tribunal initially accepted Mastercard’s position that the claims weren’t eligible for collective proceedings. But the Court of Appeal found that the tribunal had misinterpreted the law and ordered it to reconsider the case. The Supreme Court said the damage figure was likely to be a “considerable over-estimate.” Collective proceedings are a special form of civil procedure for the vindication of private rights, designed to provide access to justice for that purpose where the ordinary forms of individual civil claim have proved inadequate for the purpose.