NRF: Proposed swipe fee settlement ‘benefits no one’
Washington — Lawyers representing the National Retail Federation and many of the nation’s most prominent retail companies are set to appear in court today to ask a federal judge to reject a proposed class-action settlement of an antitrust lawsuit over the $30 billion a year in credit card swipe fees charged by Visa and MasterCard.
“This proposal benefits no one but lawyers and credit card companies, and should not be forced on the retail industry or retailers’ customers,” NRF senior VP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “It’s a morass of legal flaws, and rather than bringing about reform it would only entrench the anticompetitive behavior of the card companies while putting them beyond the reach of the law. It should be rejected on its face.”
A hearing on a motion for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. before U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, N.Y. Gleeson will hear arguments on a brief filed last week by NRF, 17 retail and restaurant companies and two other trade associations. NRF is not a party to the lawsuit, but its members and the companies named in the brief would be affected if the case is approved as a class action. Arguments will also be heard on briefs filed by other opponents, including retailers and associations who were parties to the suit but who have rejected the proposal.
NRF argued in its brief that the settlement cannot legally be certified as a class action because it attempts to force a one-size-fits-all solution onto a wildly diverse group of merchants. It also argued that a provision barring all retailers – including those who opt out of the settlement and even those who do not yet exist – from filing future lawsuits over swipe fees is impermissibly broad under federal law.
In addition, the proposal allows retailers to reject payments offered as compensation for past price-fixing but gives no mechanism to opt out of flawed injunctive relief that would allow card companies to continuing price fixing and fee increases in the future.
NRF opposes the settlement because it fails to reform the cartel-like system where Visa and MasterCard set a rigid schedule of swipe fees that all banks follow. It does nothing to disclose the hidden fees or otherwise create transparency that would encourage competition that would lead to lower fees. Merchant bargaining groups could be recognized, but that is no change from current law. And while some merchants would theoretically be given the right to surcharge as a bargaining chip to hold down fees, the provision is subject to a wide variety of card company restrictions, would be illegal in 10 states, and ignores the goal of merchants to reduce prices paid by their customers.
Brooks Brothers selects PTC solution to improve product design
New York — PTC announced that Brooks Brothers Group Inc. has chosen PTC Windchill FlexPLM software, PTC’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution for retail, to improve product design and development effectiveness, reduce costs and better capture market opportunities.
“Successfully responding to changes in the global market and consumer behaviors necessitates integrated product development and supply chain processes to efficiently secure market opportunities,” said Joe Dixon, SVP sourcing and technical design for Brooks Brothers. “By implementing PTC PLM technology, we will be able to improve our product development efficiency, reduce costs and increase our product hit rates by effectively managing the product lifecycle. The solution will also allow us to provide better product assortments for our international markets through collaborative global design and product development with our partners around the world.”
J.C. Penney’s Q3 losses greater than anticipated; same-store sales fall 26.1%
Dallas — J.C. Penney Co. Inc. on Friday reported a 26.1% decline in third-quarter same-store sales, more than the 17.9% that Wall Street analysts were expecting.
Overall sales fell 26.6% to $2.93 billion. Internet sales fell 37.3% to $214 million.
The company said that its net loss narrowed to $123 million in the third quarter ended Oct. 27, from $143 million a year earlier. The loss was wider than analysts had expected.
J.C. Penney CEO told investors on Friday said the he remained “100% committed” to his transformation plan for the chain, which includes eliminating most coupons and sales events and converting the space its 1,100 stores into a series of branded in-store shops. In a statement, Johnson described Penney as a “tale of two companies,” with the old J.C. Penney still struggling and the new stores surpassing his expectations.
Industry experts say there have been signs that the first few branded shops, which include Levi’s and Liz Claiborne, are more productive than the traditional areas. The chain’s CFO told investors that the branded shops have sales per square foot of $269 versus $134 in the existing areas of the store.
Veteran retail analyst Walter Loeb, president of retail management consultant Loeb Associates, expressed concern about J.C. Penney would fare during the upcoming holiday season in a Reuters report.
“I expect a big drop in sales,” Loeb said. “[Johnson] must generate traffic. I think he has to be more promotional.”
In January, Johnson warned that his transformation of the chain would take four years. He has repeated continually since then the change is a “marathon” and not a sprint.