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COURT SAYS PROP 64 WIPES OUT VISA CASE A First District Court of Appeal panel on Wednesday reversed a lower court decision that would have required two major credit card companies to pay about $800 million in damages for charging hidden currency conversion fees to cardholders buying goods overseas. The panel, led by Justice Paul Haerle, with Justices James Lambden and Ignazio Ruvolo concurring, held that Proposition 64, which put restrictions on the use of the Unfair Competition Law, applies retroactively to the suit. The state Supreme Court has already agreed to decide whether Prop 64 should apply retroactively in other cases. Wednesday’s ruling tosses out a 2003 decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw. Sabraw had held that Visa and MasterCard were liable under the state’s unfair competition law for engaging in a “deceptive” business practice by charging credit card customers a hidden 1 percent conversion fee every time they used their card to conduct business overseas. Particularly problematic to the panel was the fact that the named plaintiff, Adam Schwartz, “never had a MasterCard or Visa-branded credit card” and “was not injured by the appellants’ business practices.” Prop 64 removed from the UCL the right to bring private actions on behalf of the general public. Only those who have suffered actual injury can now use Business and Professions Code &*167 17200 to recover damages. The panel sent the case back to the trial court to decide if the plaintiff attorneys may substitute a plaintiff who can meet the “actual injury” requirement. The case, Schwartz v. Visa International Service Association, will appear in Friday’s California Daily Opinion Service. &# 151 Jill Duman

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