The National Grocers Association said its board voted to opt out of a multibillion-dollar antitrust settlement with Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. over merchant fees.

The association, based in Arlington, Virginia, said today in a statement that its board made the unanimous decision this month to drop out of the deal, which would settle a lawsuit on behalf of retailers nationwide.

The accord, totaling as much as $7.25 billion, was announced in July. Some large retailers and trade associations have said the settlement is too generous to card companies.

“The NGA Board carefully considered not only what is in the best interests of the retailers and wholesalers it serves but also all other merchants who will be adversely affected by the proposed settlement,” NGA President and Chief Executive Officer Peter J. Larkin said in the statement.

The association said it will formally object to the deal and will urge its 1,200 member companies to opt out and object.

Visa, based Foster City, California, and Purchase, New York-based MasterCard agreed to settle the case to resolve the almost eight-year-long legal battle over interchange fees, which are charged to merchants when customers pay with credit cards. The settlement received tentative approval from a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York in November. A hearing on final approval is set for Sept. 12.

The case is In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, 05-md-01720, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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