The largest legal claim in British history has been instigated. Credit card group MasterCard is being sued for £14bn in a landmark claim over allegations that it has over charged 46m UK consumers.

The action is a class lawsuit on behalf of multiple claimants. The basis of the claim is that MasterCard imposed unlawfully high charges on their cards which were taken out by British businesses between 1992 and 2008.

The action was brought by the UK’s former chief financial services ombudsman on behalf of around 46m customers with claims they have lost out due to the high charges which have unduly increased their debt to MasterCard.

There has been a 12 year legal battle between MasterCard and the European Commission. That was concluded in 2014 with the European Court of Justice concluding that the credit card firms fees for cross border transactions were too high and unduly indebted UK businesses.

MasterCard fought the European Commission at every stage and has not admitted any liability. They have said they will defend the action vigorously.

Walter Merritt the former chief financial ombudsman who is bringing the action has stated “there is no basis upon which MasterCard can contend that its card fees were not unlawful, the company’s fees have already been ruled unlawful in the European Court and we can now expect a tough legal battle which may end up going to trial sometime in 2018 unless a settlement offer is made to UK consumers before then”. There has been so far no attempt to compensate any UK consumers who have lost out despite acknowledging fees on the debt had passed onto to them.

It will be interesting to see how the case progresses, it is the first case to test rules intended to allow lawsuits on behalf of vast numbers of claimants, hence the value of the claim.

It is a warning to British credit card consumers that they must check the small print with any contract they enter into. All fees and charges must be understood otherwise consumers end up paying for these fees without full knowledge of the amount of the fees and how this can add significantly to the overall debt of the card.

If you’re struggling with debt please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our dedicated team on 0845 287 0939. Alternatively please complete the online enquiry form.