A £600,000 print and digital advertising campaign to draw public attention to the landmark £17bn Mastercard class action began yesterday.
It follows the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Mastercard’s final challenge to certification of the action last week in a case – the first collective proceedings started under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act – that has also been to the Supreme Court.
The campaign informs consumers of their rights under the claim, with 46 million people in line for a pay-out of up to £300 each.
The claim is a follow-on action after Mastercard was found to have infringed EU law by imposing charges (known as ‘interchange’ fees) on the use of Mastercard debit and credit cards. It is claimed that this increased costs for retailers and consumers.
Eligibility extends to any individual who purchased goods and/or services from businesses selling in the UK that accepted Mastercard cards between 22 May 1992 and 21 June 2008, so long as they were resident in the UK for a continuous period of at least three months, and were aged 16 years or over.
UK consumers – or the person whose estate they represent – who were living in the UK on 6 September 2016 and satisfy the class definition are included in the class. People who were not living here but meet the criteria have to opt in.
The personal/authorised representatives of the estates of people who meet the criteria and were alive on 6 September 2016, but subsequently died, are also included in the class.
The class representative, solicitor Walter Merricks, has funding for £45m of his own costs and disbursements, and a further £15m for Mastercard’s in the event it wins. His costs budget in August 2021, at the time the Competition Appeal Tribunal approved the collective proceedings order, was £32.5m.
The tribunal has at times since been critical of the costs run up by both parties.
The terms of the backing from third-party funder Innsworth Capital means it could exit should it look like a return of at least £179m on its investment was unlikely.
Mr Merricks, a one-time Law Society official, said: “People are waking up to consumer rip-offs by big international companies like Mastercard. In this case all UK adult shoppers lost out by paying higher prices than we should have done because of an ‘invisible tax’ that Mastercard was responsible for.”
He observed that “Mastercard have been trying slow up the case ever since I started it six years ago. Its attempts to stop the case from proceeding have all failed. It’ll still take a while yet, but today is a key milestone.”
Advertising for large group actions has been pioneered by specialist firm Pogust Goodhead, which in January 2021 became what was thought to be the first law firm in the UK to advertise on TV for claimants to join specific cases – in that instance, a claim against British Airways over its 2018 customer data breach.
The High Court subsequently ruled that the £1m the firm was spending on the advertising could not recover it from the airline in the event of winning.
Pogust Goodhead’s adverts encouraging people to join the diesel emissions litigation have been prominent during ITV’s World Cup coverage in recent weeks.