/ Money

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

Blue credit card

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.

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.

Dave says:
19 April 2013

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.


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.


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.


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…)


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.


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.

joan says:
17 June 2013

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

Freccia says:
13 August 2013

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

John Francis says:
6 March 2015

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