WikiLeaks sends complaint against Visa, MasterCard to EU
July 13th, 2011 - 9:18 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

WikiLeaks and DataCell, the Icelandic data hosting service provider that handles WikiLeaks’ donation collection, today said it has sent a complaint to the European Commission against Visa and Mastercard. Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, an Icelandic Supreme Court lawyer representing DataCell and WikiLeaks in the case, told AFP the complaint was sent by mail to the European Commission and will be officially filed on Thursday.

Visa Europe and MasterCard Europe are both accused of five violations of European competition rules, including “abuse of dominant position” and “discrimination of customers,” according to the 17-page document sent to Brussels and of which AFP obtained a copy.

In December 2010, the two credit card companies imposed a ban on payments to WikiLeaks through DataCell, costing WikiLeaks some 130,000 euros ($182,900) a day in lost donations, according to Mr Sveinsson. Visa and MasterCard’s move, which was imitated by other companies like the online money transfer service company PayPal, came as whistleblower website WikiLeaks began publishing some 250,000 secret diplomatic cables, sparking an international controversy.

“These card companies can’t behave like they want to. Because of their huge market share, they are obliged to follow a special competition rules. It’s not like they’re a little (company) in London that can throw their clients out whenever they want,” Sveinsson told AFP. “The rule of ‘I do business with whoever I want’, doesn’t apply to the card companies because by not doing business with someone they eliminate them from the market,” he said, pointing out that Visa and MasterCard together are responsible for 95 percent of European Union credit card payments.

Mr Sveinsson said he was “optimistic” the European Commission would find in his clients’ favour, since “our cause is good … There has to be a reasonable reason to throw out a client and they need to prove that WikiLeaks is doing something illegal, and that they can’t do.” The website, he said, was “just another media organisation.”

According to European law, a company that violates competition regulations can be fined up to 10 percent of its sales. Last Friday, Visa reinstated its block on credit card donations to WikiLeaks, after a breach a day earlier led WikiLeaks and DataCell to believe it had decided to lift its ban.

Mr Sveinsson said DataCell and WikiLeaks will also file two other complaints against Visa and Mastercard in Denmark and Iceland in September, with the latter aiming to win millions of euros in damages from the credit card companies.

WikiLeaks, founded in 2006, leaked classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as classified US diplomatic cables, many of which contained embarrassing revelations and descriptions of foreign officials.