A legal notice informing merchants of the proposed swipe-fee settlement appeared in several hundred publications in January and February, according to a spokesman for Epiq Systems Inc.

Epiq was hired to handle details in the swipe-fee class-action lawsuit merchants brought against Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and several financial institutions for allegedly violating anti-trust laws.

The legal notice is intended to alert merchants that the defendants have offered a $7.25 billion settlement if the plaintiffs drop the suit.

ISOs and agents have watched with apprehension as the suit has proceeded because the card brands are offering merchants the right to inform customers how much they’re paying for credit card acceptance.

That practice, called “merchant surcharging” could take the form of a line item on receipts that reports the amount paid to cover transaction fees.

Seeing that amount could lead consumers to forsake credit cards and instead pay with cash, checks or debit cards, some fear. As a result, credit card acquirers could lose some of the residual payments they receive on credit card transactions.

Whether that will come to pass remains in doubt. A hearing scheduled for Sept. 12 is expected to determine the suit’s final status. Some merchants have expressed displeasure with the proposed settlement and may not accept its terms.

At any rate, the black-and-white legal notice, which appeared from mid-January through the end of February, was placed in the Parade and USA Weekend supplements to 1,100 Sunday newspapers. It appeared in consumer magazines that included TV Guide, People, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

It ran in financial publications, such as Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune. It was in city business publications throughout the nation.

The notice was translated into eight languages for foreign-language newspapers and magazines published in the United States.

Legal notices typically appear as inconspicuous no-frills ads in the back of publications. That was the status of a two-page version that ran in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

Banner ads appeared on Facebook Yahoo, AOL, MSNMoney and other websites.

The notices referred to a website created to explain the proposed settlement.

Epiq also mailed 16-page versions of the notice to about 19 million merchants.

The Epiq spokesman declines to say how much the legal notices and mailings cost, but admits the project was “not cheap” and referred to the expense as “phenomenal.”

If a judge pronounces the settlement final at the September hearing, Epiq plans to mail claim forms that merchants can use to a collect their share of the cash settlement, the spokesman says.

 

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