Spotted excessive surcharges? Don’t let them get away with it

by , Campaigns Team Money 19 April 2013
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A couple of weeks ago the government finally banned ‘rip off’ surcharges. We asked you to report any companies who weren’t sticking to the rules, and found that people are still being hit by unfair card charges.

Blue credit card

When the ban on excessive surcharges began, we were pleased to report the Which? victory to more than 50,000 of you who supported our campaign.

However, our work doesn’t end here. We asked you to report any instances of companies who are now breaking the law by continuing to charge excessive surcharges. In turn, we agreed to investigate these companies and report them to Trading Standards.

Help us stop companies breaking the law

Since the ban came into effect, you’ve reported more than 200 companies for applying excessive surcharges.

For example, Jon from Newcastle told us his story. He tried to book his holiday through independent travel agent Purple Haze the day before the rules came in, and was charged £32 to book his holiday on a payment card.

According to the government’s new rules, surcharges must reflect the cost incurred to the firm for processing the payment. We estimate this to be no more than 50p per transaction for debit card payments, or 2% of the total transaction price for credit card payments.

However, on checking Purple Haze’s T&Cs after the rules had changed, Jon noticed the travel agent’s surcharges were still listed at the same excessive price.

Challenging ‘rip off’ surcharges

Jon’s story piqued the interest of BBC’s Money Box, who then challenged Purple Haze on why they weren’t complying with the new rules. Its chief executive responded:

‘That’s totally unacceptable, I apologise. We will take steps to ensure that Purple do not charge this sort of fee going forward’

Thankfully, Jon’s story had a happy ending as he was refunded the £32 he was charged, and Purple Haze has now changed its rules.

I want to encourage all of you to keep an eagle eye on companies charging excessive surcharges for card payments, and to report them to us if and when you find them.

But most importantly – make sure you complain to the companies who have charged you. Tell them if you think they’re breaking the law, and you may even get your money back.

25 comments

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Dave

Ticket for the ATG (Ambassador Theatre Group) The Bodyguard at the Adelphi theatre:-
Per Ticket Fee £4.00
Transaction Fee £3.00
Grand Total £62.00
Handling: Total order price includes any booking/transaction fees.

I have no idea what the different fees are for and can’t work it out from the website terms and conditions.

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NFH

NPower (and many other energy suppliers) are continuing to charge £100 per year more for payment by bank transfer or standing order compared to direct debit. Clearly this does not reflect the difference in cost (if any exists at all) between these payment methods.

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wavechange

That’s probably the best example that could be provided, NFH. On top of this, the energy suppliers often keep their customers hundreds of pounds in credit.

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lloydpurn

Are gambling/online poker websites exempt from these laws?

One that I use charges a flat rate of £1 deposit fee and £2 withdrawal fee on all transactions under £25 !

(Needless to say I’m looking for a cheaper alternative…)

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GS

Just paid a few pounds VAT, at the post office depot, on items purchased from USA. No problem: if it was bought here there would be VAT.

But the Royal Mail add an £8 “handling fee” purportedly to take this money and give it to customs. In other places, there might be other words for this kind of thing.

Incidentally, this “fee” is equivalent to 30% of the stated value of the item, or over 140% of the VAT.

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NFH

I wonder whether credit card issuers will get involved in “enforcing” the legislation. American Express UK for example has always contractually prevented merchants charging more to accept their cards than to accept other types of credit card. Although card issuers have no statutory powers of enforcement, they do have the ability to apply commercial pressure on merchants, and the recent statutory enhancements will only serve to strengthen card issuers’ commercial strength in this regard.

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joan

on the beach are still charging excess amounts on my holiday booking balance due end of june not happy wth surcharge, are they in there rights to charge this

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Freccia

I see that Saga are still charging 2.5% on holiday balance payments made by credit cards other than their own. There is no fee to pay by debit card

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John Francis

Yes and they also charge !% on their own Saga Visa Credit Card

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su51e

I believe another related area needs looking at. Why do credit card companies and banks charge such high fees for using their cards overseas? If the post office can dispense with them – and still give a very reasonable exchange rate – why do people like Lloyds and Tesco continue with this rip off? Surely it cannot be that the costs (if any) to the companies rise with the value of the transaction – yet they charge a percentage of the transaction – and it’s not small.

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Jane

The balance on our Venetian holiday was due today, and would have had a 1.5% surcharge levied for using a Debit Card (making their charge £7.64). Fortunately, as I very happily do e-banking, the company involved gave me their bank account details when asked, so I was able to make the transfer without charge.

When challenged, the member of staff said she was aware of the new guidelines, but said that they were still being charged this percentage by their bank.

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Dick Morris

Virgin Media Telephone Broadband and TV.
Monthly bill £ 23.45
Visa credit card charges £ 3.50.

This is WELL OVER the agreed rate.

They used to charge £ 5.00 and now they offer a small discount which looks good. BUT the charge remains at £ 3.50 for only a £ 23.45 charge.

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Andrew Drury

Re Saga Holidays:

Para 5 quotes 2.5% ‘transaction fee’ on balance of holiday payment. £250 is a ridiculous ‘fee’ for a a single, simple payment to clear a typical balance on a cruise holiday of £10,000.

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Curry`s, creation finance

We recently bought a TV from curry`s buy now pay later,now we want to pay for it using a credit card you want to charge us 4%, (£40) plus £25 admin fee, we where never told about this in the shop when we bought this deal, it is absolutely disgusting & daylight robbery from you people.
Why have we all got bank & credit cards to move money around,when company`s like you charge us to use them,had we been told this we would have bought else where,I would like a return email please.
Now we have to go to the bank to do bank transfers,this is a blatant scam by your company
I intend to get this on every social networking site to expose a blatant scam by your company.
can i go direct to curry’s and pay the total amount at the shop ? or is that part of your scam ?
What`s the point of cards for on line payment if your going to penalise people,or scam them it is Disgusting.

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TONY EVANS

At a Preliminary hearing to discover the facts before Judge Collins at the Portsmouth Courts of Justice on 16.01.2014, the Judge found that the UK’s Largest Regional and troubled Airline FLYBE who advertise widely that they do-not charge their customers for the use of Debit Cards when used for booking their on-line flights, had in fact been CHARGING FEES to the claimant for booking flights that were made using various DEBIT CARDS and as a result there could be a prima facia case for MISREPRESENTATION resulting in an award of damages. In his summing-up he said that although the amounts were small by their very nature, it was in the public interest for the claimants action to proceed against FLYBE to a full hearing.

There will now be a full trial at the Courts of Justice on the 3rd April 2014 to consider Witness Statements, make Judgement and access Damages.

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Liz

I recently bought a flight with Flybe for just over £400 and was charged, I think £12.90 to pay by credit card (interestingly, I can’t report the exact amount as it is not detailed on my receipt, only the total amount is shown – £425.62).

I contacted Flybe to complain and I did suggest this was unlawful (it is more than 2%) and I had the following response:

“The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Guide ‘Consumer Protection Regulations March 2012’ very clearly explains the allowable costs that can be attributed to a card programme and that can be recovered through a payment surcharge. Flybe is fully compliant with those regulations.

Prior to the publication of the recent Which? report, Flybe worked closely with its team, sharing costs being incurred and payment structure alignment, resulting in Flybe being given a clean bill of health by the consumer watchdog. This was then demonstrated when, in publicly naming companies that in their opinion continue to overcharge customers, Flybe – unlike many of its competitors – was not one.

It should also be pointed out that Flybe made huge steps in 2012 by being many months ahead of other leading airlines in scrapping debit card charges for all bookings made online.”

They clearly think they are operating inside of the law and that Which have already given their charges a clean bill of health – in which case is Which wrong in suggesting that the maximum charge should be around 2%?

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Not happy

Glasgow airport taxi along with taxi world (patons taxi,s) installed credit card machines in all 200 taxi,s they automatically charge 10 percent on all transactions rip off

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Richard Cartwright

Problem is not just with credit/debit charges. What about exorbitant telegraphic transfer charges? Am buying a house and both mortgage lender and solicitor are charging £35 each to transfer funds – £70 just to make an internet bank transaction. this is a rip off.
Incidentally Wolves football club charge £1.50 per ticket for both debit/credit card purchases, making it 6% on a £25 ticket and 9.3% on a £16 concession ticket. Is this legal?

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Jacques

Balance due – to Barrhead Travel – on our holiday is £6749.00. The confirmation says that credit card payments will attract a 2.5% surcharge, but AMEX will be 3%. If I pay by AMEX that will be an additional £202 – this is excessive.

I called AMEX, they were incensed not by the surcharge but by the difference as they would like their surcharge to be the same as for other credit cards !!!

I’m very tempted to pay in cash.

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Steve S

I just purchased tickets for a concert from Live Nation at Motorpoint Arena Cardiff. I was told ticket prices and I opted for 2 x£43.50 making the total £87. I said I was paying by card I was then told I would be charged a fee of £6.25 per ticket making an extra £12.50 payable. I said I would use my debit card.instead but I was then told it would make no difference,the same charge was made for debit or credit cards but there was no extra charge made for payment in cash.Another customer next to me had already rushed out to get cash as he didn’t want to pay extra and said he too had pointed out that the charge was incorrect on a debit card.I also said to cashier that it made no sense as it cost them more to bank the cash than to accept a debit card.I was told it was going towards the Motorpoint arena and was in their terms and conditions.He did confirm that cash payments did not have extra charges like booking fees.I reluctantly paid it as it was late evening and I had no wish to go to a cashpoint alone in the dark and risk the seats possibly being taken in the meantime .I will be taking it further as this is unreasonable even for a credit card.

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A K Drury

Intoto Kitchens, e.g. branch in Oadby, Leics, charge 2.5% for use of credit card. £250 on a £10k kitchen. No way it can cost them that sum to process/service a credit card payment. Straight ripoff. No fee for debit card payments, nor cheques.

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Heather Warren

Yesterday I put my car through service and MOT with Servicing Stop. My bill came to £432. Based on 2% maximum credit card surcharges and 50p debit card I believe they are being excessive. To pay by credit card the surcharge was £10 (i believe it should have been £8.64 maximum). For the debit card the surcharge was £1. I ended up going for debit card for obvious reasons but there are many people who would not have this option as they don’t always have this kind of dispoable cash in their current account. It angers me that this kind of charging actually hits the poorer in our scoiety. Please let me know if there is any other way that I can report this. Kind regards
Heather

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Mary davies

I just payed a parking ticket to Minster baywatch and was charged 4% for the privilege. I phoned them and they told me it was Paypal who made the charge not them. I did queery this as there was no mention of paypal anywhere on their site. I used my debit card to pay.

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Emma Harris

My husband and I were planning to buy a Big Green Egg with some wedding money. I went through the selection process on their website, choosing goods with the final total edging towards £1500.

I had my credit card at the ready, but on checkout I realised that they charge 2.5% for credit card payments – £33 for my large order.

Given the extremely high cost of Big Green Egg products, and the undoubtedly high margins they are making on these luxury items, it is laughable that they should charge customers to pay for their products.

I wrote to Alfresco Concepts (the UK distributor of Big Green Egg) about this matter. Their response is below:

‘Thank you for your email regarding purchasing a Big Green Egg using a credit card. Whilst we understand the protection offered when purchasing with a credit card, we also have to have to consider all of our customers. It is our company policy that rather than building banking costs into the price of the Big Green Egg, we add on a surcharge only to those who choose to pay by credit card, as these costs are charges we incur when taking payment through a credit card.’

‘We can assure you that we are a reputable company and do hope that this surcharge does not deter you from purchasing a Big Green Egg, perhaps you could add Big Green Egg gift vouchers onto your wedding list and this way you could purchase an EGG using these.’

I am not going to comment on this: this flimsy response speaks for itself. Needless to say I have taken all Big Green Egg products off our wedding list and purchased a rival BBQ. I will also report them for their high surcharges.

On asking around, I have heard that Big Green Egg has a reputation for overpriced products and poor customer service. Spread the word!

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John Ward

Given that high street retailers with expensive premises to staff and maintain seem to be able to take credit card payments with no surcharges it seems extortionate for traders who sell on line to add this extra amount to the cost. Usually there is not much alternative to using a card for an on-line purchase so it is effectively enabling the retailer to show a lower offer price for the product and regain the profit through an excessive credit card fee. Since they would go out of business if people refused to accept these surcharges and purchased elsewhere it would be good if people followed Emma’s example above.

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