American Express is downplaying concerns over the impact of a proposed settlement in a longstanding retailers' lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard.
The financial industry is abuzz with speculation that merchants could begin imposing surcharges on consumers using credit cards, because the settlement lifted restrictions for doing so.
But Dan Henry, American Express' chief financial officer, said on a second-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday evening that even if merchants did begin imposing surcharges the effects would be moderated for the credit card company, which was not involved in the lawsuit.
"In the United States there are 10 states that have laws that prohibit surcharging, and these states represent about 50% of our U.S. billings volume," he said on the call, adding that surcharging is "not consumer friendly."
That has analysts somewhat relieved.
"I feel a little more comfortable than I did prior the call yesterday in terms of how Amex might be affected," said Michael Taiano, a director at Telsey Advisory Group.
Henry also said that the terms of the settlement do not change rules the credit card company already has in place with merchants that require they impose equal surcharges across card networks.
"We do not prevent merchants from surcharging, but we do continue to require parity treatment so that our cardmembers are not discriminated against at point of sale," he said. "And by parity treatment, I mean that if an American Express cardmember is surcharged 100 basis points, any other credit card that is presented would be charged — surcharged the same 100 basis points."