Mastercard Group Litigation to include 3m Dead Claimants
Around three million now-dead people can continue to be part of a mammoth group action against Mastercard after the Competition Appeal Tribunal today ruled that anyone living in the UK when the claim form was filed should be part of the class.
Former financial services ombudsman Walter Merricks is bringing a £14bn claim on behalf of around 46 million people against the card giant for allegedly subjecting UK customers to higher prices through so-called ‘interchange fees’ levied between 1992 and 2008.
The landmark claim was filed in September 2016 and went to the Supreme Court and back before the CAT decided to grant a collective proceedings order (CPO) last August.
In January, the tribunal was asked to determine the ‘domicile date’ – the date used to determine when a proposed member of the class is domiciled in the UK – following its decision to grant a CPO.
Merricks’ lawyers said the domicile date should be the date on which the claim form was issued, whereas Mastercard argued it should be the date the CPO decision was made.
Mr Justice Roth today ruled in Merricks’ favour, saying that ‘over three million claims will not be in the class’ otherwise. ‘All persons who otherwise fall within the definition of the class and were alive when the proceedings were commenced on 6 September 2016 had a claim at that date,’ the tribunal said. ‘We consider that the clear intention of the claim form, considered as a whole, is that they should be included.’
Mammoth group action can include those who have died since the claim was issued in 2016, CAT rules
Roth added: ‘The reason why Mr Merricks seeks specification of the claim form date is because some three million people with valid claims when these proceedings were started will have died by 2021 and would otherwise be excluded.
That would be a windfall for Mastercard: it would lead to a not insignificant reduction in the size of the claim as put forward in the claim form served in 2016.
‘And it would result from the original, erroneous decision of this tribunal to refuse a CPO and then the prolonged process of appeals, neither of which is the fault of those who will thereby be excluded from the class.’
But the judge emphasised that the CAT reached its decision ‘on the particular circumstances of this case’, adding: ‘For CPO applications in the future, it is undesirable for the class definition to depend on the domicile date.’
The CAT also granted Merricks permission to amend his claim form to permit claims on behalf of people who have died after the proceedings began to be continued by representatives of their estates.