A federal judge surprised financial services industry and retailer advocates alike this week when he suggested that banks might be forced to rebate potentially billions of dollars to merchants in "overcharges" related to debit interchange fees.

But there appears to be little chance that institutions will ever have to cough up a portion of the swipe fees they've collected in the past two years, with legal experts saying the court lacks the authority to enact such an order. Instead, observers suggested the judge's comments were aimed at increasing pressure on the Federal Reserve Board to change its interchange rule.

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