WikiLeaks to File Complaint Against Visa, MasterCard

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WikiLeaks and Iceland-based data-hosting service DataCell ehf. said they will file a complaint on Thursday with the European Commission against Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. if the payment companies continue to block their payment-processing.

Along with PayPal Inc., the credit card companies cut off payments processing for WikiLeaks late last year, making it difficult for WikiLeaks to accept donations.

WikiLeaks' attorney in Iceland, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, said in an interview that if the payment companies do not open the payment gateways he will file a complaint against Visa and MasterCard.

"It is quite obvious they have to play by the EU's rules and not use their dominance to stop business they don't like," Sveinsson said.

Together, Visa and MasterCard make up about 95% of the payment card market in Europe.

Besides Visa and MasterCard, Teller A/S, a Danish payments processor, will be named in the complaint, Sveinsson said. DataCell, a company that provides Web hosting and software development for WikiLeaks, also saw its payments processing cut off and plans to join WikiLeaks in the complaint.

The companies state in the suit that the credit card brands and the payments processors violated EU Competition Rules and discriminated against WikiLeaks and DataCell because they did not agree with WikiLeaks' decision to publish secret U.S. government documents.

Sveinsson said the credit card companies were under pressure from the U.S. government despite the fact that WikiLeaks has not been found to have broken any laws in the U.S. or elsewhere. He said Visa and MasterCard then pressured Teller to drop WikiLeaks and DataCell transaction processing.

"It was obviously better for [Visa and MasterCard] to bully a client than to have the anger of the U.S. government," he said.

Both Visa and MasterCard declined to comment, and Teller could not immediately be reached.

Sveinsson said WikiLeaks and DataCell also will pursue a private suit against the companies, which they plan to file in September.

WikiLeaks so far has not mentioned any prospective damages figure, but in a video about the complaint, the organization said it has lost $15 million in potential donations since late last year.

DataCell, too, has suffered economically from the payment-processing block, Sveinsson said.

Sveinsson said he has not received a substantive response from Visa or MasterCard and plans to go ahead with the complaint if nothing changes.

"They have had enough time to respond to us and to open up the [payment] gateway and negotiate with us," he said.

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