/ Money

Charges that should be banned

Fees and charges

Why should you have to pay to print your theatre tickets at home or to leave a mortgage that has ended? These are just some of the charges we think should be banned.

Many of you have in the past written to us on Which? Conversation with examples of such charges for ‘extras’ that we feel should be free or included in the headline price.

While these charges are perfectly legal, our view is clear. If you can’t escape paying a fee it should be included in the price. There are four we believe should be banned and five that seem excessive.

Ban these fees

Print at home fees for tickets you print yourself: Theatre and gig-goers typically have to pay a booking fee on top of the face value of the ticket and another to have the tickets sent to you.

But why on earth should you have to pay a fee (up to £2.50 in some cases) to use your own printer ink to print off tickets?

A ‘cessation charge‘: You pay this if you leave BT to switch to a company that has its own network (esentially Virgin Media) or to opt out of a BT broadband connection. You pay this even though you’re out of contract.

Exit feesThere are charges to set up a mortgage, but you can also get charged when you finish paying it off. Most lenders now call these ‘exit fees’.

Eric said on Which? Conversation he was expecting such a charge when his mortgage ends:

‘This, they say, is an admin charge to close the account. I feel I’ve paid them enough over 25 years.’

Letting agents’ admin feesCharged to tenants on top of rent.

Excessive charges

There are also charges that you can sidestep, if you know what to look for and are prepared to shop around – but they’re commonly imposed by many providers. Examples of these include:

Replacement insurance policy charges: Not all car and home insurers charge for this, but yours might.

Excess waiver insurance: Charged when you hire a car abroad, but far more expensive than standalone alternatives.

Airline seat advance reservation fees: Introduced by budget airlines, now very widespread. Avoidable if you take a gamble and book seats the moment the online check-in opens.

Tips invited by cruise ship companies which also add a service charge at the end of the cruise.

High cancellation charges: If you have to cancel a holiday booking.

Firms that slap on extra fees might hope you won’t notice, but it’s always a shock to find the actual cost is higher than it first appeared. In some cases, an add-on is justified (and perhaps not very expensive) but in others it seems an opportunistic liberty.

Let’s be clear. We think it’s great that in some areas fees are much clearer than they used to be – but that doesn’t mean it’s right they should be charged in the first place.

Have we caught the worst examples? Are there any new fees you’ve noticed, which weren’t charged until recently? Are there any you’ve successfully challenged?

Join our fight against sneaky fees


Comments
Guest
Mike T says:
10 July 2016

The Flying with your Family article drew my attention as I’ve just returned from a family holiday to the US with BA. It’s not just the budget airlines that operate this dodgy business practice as we had the option to buy seats prior to check-in which meant that if we wanted to be sure of the three of us sitting together I would be forced to cough up the £42 per seat or risk waiting for the inevitable scrum at the check-in time 24 hours before the flight and risk not sitting together. It is morally indefensible as the whole objective is to play on your anxiety as you watch the available seats slowly disappear before your eyes when you log in to your booking. So, for two lots of three seats it cost me £252. Which, incidentally, is greater than any monetary value contained within the avios points earned on the flight. Shame on you BA.

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Guest

latimes.com/business/la-fi-travel-briefcase-family-20160709-snap-story.html

You may well think that the largest consumer group in Europe, plus its European confederates in BEUC would have been on this case earlier.

beuc.eu/publications/beuc-x-2016-034_pki_air_passenger_rights.pdf
actually seems to ignore this very pertinent topic.

Guest
Alan McDougall says:
10 July 2016

Double dipping letting agents, my daughter rents a room in a flat in London and it appears that letting agents can charge tenants for references or any changes to the lease.
This of course can’t happen in Scotland where thanks to a campaign by Shelter it is now illegal for a landlord to charge the tenant for referencing, drawing up leases etc.
Plus deposits must be placed with an approved body which can mediate on any disputes at the end of the tenancy.
This has teeth as a letting agent (quite a big firm) was recently fined for not placing tenants deposits with a recognised third party.

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Guest

Letting Agents are the worst, when charging fees. I worked for a letting agent and they get away with anything because they are not regulated. Estate Agents do not need qualifications to do their job and literally make the rules up as they go along. They charge around £300 for reference fees and admin fees for tenancy agreements. To obtain a reference only costs about £17.00 (that was in 2002) prices may have increased since then but they do charge over the odds. Tenancy Agreements are drawn up once and only the names and the tenants, the date on which occupation is going to be and the address of the rental property is typed onto these and yet they charge £50 per tenant and £50 per landlord.

Letting Agents are rip-off merchants because some do not put the reference monies they receive through their books and a lot of money laundering goes on. Also I have worked for a Company who received a Housing Benefit payment from the Council but it was not passed on to the tenant by the owner of the business. Also, tenants were able to move temporarily into a landlord’s property until the one they were going to rent became available. The Landlord was abroad but the money received went to the owner of the Letting Agent and was not passed on to him.

I strongly believe that Letting Agents should be regulated just as Estate Agents who sell properties are. They carry out valuations of properties without qualifications and rely on what other letting agents are renting properties out for (i.e. the market value).

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Guest

Not to mention the staff who use vacant properties for assignations. I worked for a business dealing with blocks of flats which was a sideline for a long-established who also had a letting and selling sides. When they sold it to an insurance company I suspect the standards slid considerably as it was no longer a named local person who would suffer any reputational damage.

Accountants in London care not what is done provided the money comes through.

Could something be done about it. Certainly it could and it does not require any particular genius to sort out something better.

Listening to Radio Four on Monday there was the a discussion on rogue letting agents. One of the salient points is the deposit being taken and not deposited in a scheme. You would think it very simple for an organisation to be in control of all deposits and that the landlord/agent is cut out from the loop of holding money.

Renters would only be allowed to deposit direct to this holding company and identifying the address, agent and the landlord. You will appreciate that this would help prevent the multiple letting of the same flat. The scenario quoted had an agent?[fraudster] renting the same flat to multiple people. Total fraud jailed for £220,000

As for those who seek to operate in a cash only environment be it landlords, agents or renters then arrange for a certain number of undercover agents work to catch them with swingeing penalties like loss of property for two years, jail, or loss of deposit. A few well-publicised cases and a transparent new system I think would speedily correct the market.

As to whom is paying for this? Well the deposits will add up to a very tidy sum and I anticipate the interest to be the primary source.

You may also consider that a single national database of properties for rent might help the letting business become more respectable.

I should also mention a family member was employed by a national letting chain to do inventories and his tales … some would curl your hair with what tenants have done to properties.