One year later: airlines finally scrap surprise surcharges
Today, the Office of Fair Trading announced it has persuaded a number of airlines to include debit card surcharges in headline prices, and to make credit card surcharges clear and upfront.
You may be reading this and thinking, ‘hasn’t Miranda said this before? I thought Which? won this battle last December’. Well, you’d be right! But much like Rome, campaigns aren’t
built won in a day.
When it comes to campaigning, you’ll often overcome one hurdle only to find a few more down the track.
We’ve got good news
In December, we celebrated a mighty surcharges victory as the government announced it would ban excessive debit and credit card charges by the end of 2012. They planned to do it quickly by bringing in an Article of the Consumer Rights Directive 18 months before it was officially due.
But when the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) upheld our super complaint on ‘rip-off’ surcharges back in the summer of 2011, it also committed itself to enforcing the OFT’s own rules on transparent pricing by getting strict on airlines’ compliance.
Today’s good news marks the end of the OFT’s year-long negotiations with the airline industry to drop debit card charges and be more upfront about credit card fees.
All of these victories may seem a bit confusing; especially if you’ve noticed you still have to pay surcharges. But the good news is that by the 1 January 2013, wherever you shop, you won’t have to pay any more ‘rip-off’ card surcharges.
Making fares fair
You may still find a surcharge for paying by card, but this will reflect the cost charged to the company for processing your payment instead of an over-inflated figure. For debit cards, this charge should only amount to between 10 and 20p, while for credit cards the cost will equal a small percentage of the purchase price.
As the debit card charges are so small, it’s likely that most businesses will follow the lead of the airlines and include them in their headline prices.
So over the next few months you should see some changes when you book flights, as airlines follow the likes of Flybe and drop debit card charges and make credit card charges clear and upfront. The OFT has published a full rundown of which airlines have agreed to what charges, and when they plan to implement the changes.
The end is in sight…?
‘So the campaign is over?’ you ask. Well, if only things were as easy as that. For the next six months, we’ll be busy making sure the government sticks to its December 2012 deadline and the OFT remains vigilant on whether airlines stick to their agreements.
We also hope that the OFT will use the airlines’ action as a precedent for how all industries should be operating and will clamp down on all ‘rip-off’ surcharges.
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