By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear appeals by Visa Inc, Mastercard Inc and several U.S. banks seeking to throw out lawsuits claiming they conspired to inflate the prices of ATM access fees in violation of antitrust law.
The high court will hear the companies' bid to overturn an August 2015 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that revived three related class action lawsuits.
The appeals court said a district court erred when it concluded that consumers had no standing to sue and had not adequately alleged antitrust violations. It remanded the three consolidated lawsuits to the district court for further proceedings.
The decision revived two class action suits brought by consumers and another one brought by independent ATM operators.
Their lawsuits accused Visa and MasterCard of adopting rules protecting themselves from competition with a lower-cost ATM network. The rules blocked ATM operators from charging less when ATM transactions were processed by networks competing with Visa and Mastercard, the lawsuits said.
The rules also benefited major banks, which were equity shareholders of Visa and Mastercard, the lawsuits said.
The lawsuits seek damages for consumers and ATM operators for violations of antitrust law.
The lawsuits said that the banks controlled Visa and MasterCard and set higher ATM charges before the credit card companies went public in 2008 and 2006, respectively.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments and issue a ruling in its next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2017.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)