Investigation and pending class action lawsuit against American Express accusing American Express of unlawfully conspiring to fix fees charged to consumers who use credit cards abroad and imposing arbitration clauses in cardholder agreements.
The class action arises from the consolidated Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation, which alleges that the VISA and MasterCard networks conspired to charge U.S. cardholders a fixed currency conversion fee. Unlike the VISA and MasterCard networks, which are associated with member banks, American Express is a closed network that issues cards directly to cardholders and contracts directly with merchants. In 2003, over 90% of all purchases made with general purpose credit cards were made with VISA, MasterCard or American Express cards, according to the complaint.
The class action lawsuit alleges that American Express colluded with the VISA and MasterCard networks and their member banks to charge U.S. cardholders a fixed currency conversion fee equal to 2% of the amount of a foreign currency transaction. In addition, according to the class action complaint, American Express did not disclose the fee to cardholders in application solicitations or monthly billing statements. The class action lawsuit further assert that American Express also plotted with its competitors to impose compulsory arbitration clauses on its cardholders to deprive them of dispute resolution alternatives.
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