How Mastercard and Visa rip off merchants with secret, 1,000-page "agreement"

Cisero's, a Park City, UT restaurant that is a darling of Sundance festival attendees has been hit by enormous fines from Mastercard and Visa, who claim, without evidence, that the restaurant is responsible for $1.26M (or $1.33M, or $511,513, or $55K, or $100K) in fraud, and so the card companies have seized $15K from the restaurant's owners. Then they seized another $13,850. They claim that this is all according to an "agreement" that the restaurateurs agreed to when they opened their merchant accounts, but the agreement in question is a confidential, 1,000 page tome that no one (not even its signatories) are allowed to see. And when the restaurateurs lawyer did get a look at the secret bible of credit card operations, it didn't contain any provisions allowing for this kind of seizure. Here's Matt Taibbi on the situation:

This story is another example of the central complaint against financial companies. They occupy a place in society in which they are a trusted part of our infrastructure. We allow many of our creditors to debit our bank accounts freely because we trust them not to simply steal our money without justification...

Nobody minds banks and creditors being greedy. But we can't live with big firms simply taking money out of bank accounts for no reason, and daring people to sue to get the money back. That's theft by bureaucratic force, not mere greed.

So it turns out that PayPal doesn't have a monopoly on evil.

Credit Card Firms: They Don't Just Steal From Cardholders (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone)

Park City Eatery Balks at Credit Card Fines in Rare Court Fight (Thom Weidlich, Bloomberg)

(Thanks, sdmikev!)