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AmEx Can Bar Merchants from Steering Users to Rival Cards

Sept. 27, 2016, 4:00 AM

American Express Co. can prohibit merchants from steering customers to credit cards with lower transaction fees, a federal appeals court ruled in a blow to businesses trying to reduce annual card fees that run around $50 billion.

The decision by the appeals court in Manhattan is the most definitive ruling on AmEx’s relationship with merchants. A federal judge had found the credit card company’s policy violated antitrust law, but the higher court said the retailers aren’t obliged to accept AmEx cards and pay its fees.

“Though merchants may desire lower fees, those fees are necessary to maintaining cardholder satisfaction,” Circuit Judge ...