/ 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

Ian says:
19 June 2016

Per-call connection fees on calls to ordinary landline and mobile numbers is another rip-off charge.

Ian says:
19 June 2016

Paying a per-minute Service Charge to the ticket agent when you book tickets for cinemas, threatres, sporting and other events simply because they still use a premium rate 084 or 087 number, is another rip-off fee. Due to excessive queueing it is possible to spend twenty quid or more on the phone call to book those tickets.

These fees are all part and parcel of rip off Britain, through Which we have to fight them or the fees will just increase and become more widespread. I recently changed banks due my long standing branch closing in my local town. As the switch was taking place between banks my Talktalk monthly bill payment got rejected, Talktalk contacted me and I paid it within days over the phone. When I got my next month’s bill I had been penalised £10 for failure/refusal to pay. ok not a lot but it was the principle. I rang Talktalk in annoyance because they had never informed me of being penalised over this matter just added to my bill. I did in fairness get the penalty revoked but there was no way was I going to leave the matter lie.

22 June 2016

Your comment is extremely accurate Kel – I’m afraid we live in RIP OFF BRITAIN !

bill dixon says:
23 June 2016

Yes we do live in rip off Britain.

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Jenny says:
23 June 2016

It was a few years ago but I was charged by BT when I moved to France

If there are to be any extra charges they must be made very clear before you make any commitment to purchase or use. They must NOT be hidden away in the small print and BE completely understandable by everyone even the very vulnerable.

thoroughly agree

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

It would help if this were explained. I have used a few cruise lines where the tipping recommendations are very clear and up-front. And optional if one is unhappy.

Is this service something on US owned lines? Please explain.

Yvonne Duncan says:
23 June 2016

The service charges on cruise ships is a ‘suggestion’ although the cruise lines do not make this clear. It may be cancelled (so you can make your own gratuities as you see fit), BUT you must request this from the purser as soon as you board the cruise (if left for the next day it is already too late to cancel). Simply request that the charges are not commenced.

I dispute your information as certainly on the lines I have been on in the last four years it is entirely clear that it is a recommendation. They are CMV and Fred Olsen. There are , I believe two other UK lines, where the fare is inclusive of any “tipping”.

I am aware from newspaper reports that Costa Cruises has a mandatory policy of adding tips.
And I understand that the wages on US based/owned cruise ships are dire and that tipping is vitally important to the crews.

In egalitarian Australia there is no automatic tipping on cruise ships based there but beware visiting US lines. Also be aware of a 15% service charge added to drinks, salons and spa visits etc.

The daily rates can be expensive : ” Celebrity Cruises (Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Millennium) charges US$12.95 per person, per day for passengers staying in standard staterooms, US$13.45 per person, per day in Concierge Class and AquaClass staterooms, and US$16.45 per person, per day in Suite Class.”

Please note that Cunard and P & O are part of one of two conglomerate that controls most of the cruise lines.

Just sold house (In Scotland) and solicitor of buyer deducted £19.20 fee for cost of his clients money transfer on the sale day, to my account, on the final piece of documentation, which made sale legally binding.
Was I going to withdraw at this point because of this, would you? Daylight robbery!

Any goodwill to buyer completely lost.

Is this a feature of the Scottish legal system? In England and Wales the buyer pays the money transfer fee [typically £25] and it is added to their legal costs.

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Yes, it looks as though there was something amiss in Methvano’s case and perhaps he ought to take the matter up with his own lawyer if he was not advised of this contingency at the outset. It certainly should not come as a surprise on completion of the sale.

What realy annoys me is because I will not use Plusnets Broadbands direct debit they charge me £2.50 a MONTH when they take the money from my account and they tell me it is needed to cover “administative costs” and they are supposed to be the BEST broadband, God knows what the worst is like

You have choices – pay by direct debit (which is free) or by credit card.

Payment by credit card is subject to the PCI-DSS compliance regulations which year on year become more and more pernicious. Compliance with these regulations is a costly affair, the costs of which have to be covered somehow. Armed with this knowledge I am sure that if you paid by direct debit (as many PlusNet user do) I am sure you’d be unhappy knowing that you were paying the compliance fees for those customers choosing to pay by credit card.

The compliance fees are only one part of the costs of taking payment by credit card – there are the card (payment) acquirer’s fees to be paid (a fixed rate and a percentage of the transaction value), to say nothing of the financial cost in the delays of receiving the money. When the cost of the supplied service has been trimmed to the bone, then one should expect to see the direct costs of specific trading models being charged to those who choose to use them.

If you want to complain about anything in this arenas it ought to be about commercially stupid offers such as ‘free broadband for N months on a N month contract’. Such commercial arrangements deliver no margin, resulting in charges being levied elsewhere.

When compared to Virgin or BT, Plusnet is pretty good.

TREV says:
22 June 2016

PlusNet is a BT company

George McMaster says:
22 June 2016

Plusnet from what I have heard is just another subsidiary of BT, so nothing new there about hidden costs.

Joseph Cronshaw says:
22 June 2016

I was coming to the end of my contract, and when I checked with BT about the earliest date I could cancel, using the contact form. I got a call from them mid evening, going into how they might be able to help me overcome some of the reasons why was considering leaving BT. After quite some time going back and forward with different offers, the person convinced me I wa son the wrong plan, and came up with a new one which was much cheaper, it also included for £10 per month a mobile phone card. I accepted. within 2 months the bill had climbed back to where I was before, I asked them to cancel the mobile phone. And, then the big shock I was locked into a 18 months contract and could not cancel the mobile phone even, though they could see I had not used it. Because I have a Pay as You Go phone that I have been using for years. I am waiting for the 198 months to come to an end and then. By By BT forever, I’m convinced now that most, if not all of those in charge of providers of services, whether it be, phone, electric, gas and even water are con-artist and spivs.

Being charged £12 by a credit card company for being one day late with a payment. The outstanding bill was less than £8! No warning at all.

So have I, but I consider it to be my own fault as it’s clearly stated in t&c’s,

Chris, your credit card company should give you a date payment is required by with the statement. Did this not happen? I have inadvertently missed a pay date in the past so contacted the credit card company to explain why and they readily removed the charge – a fee plus interest. It won’t happen repeatedly of course but something you might try.

John P says:
22 June 2016

Recent experience has convinced me that BT has the worse customer service going. I have just left their phone and broadband and although there were no charges to leave I had to get in touch with Libby Barr’s office (Google it) and they then jumped through the proverbial hoops to resolve my problems but I’d had enough and still left them.

In January/February I bought 300 units from Find my past I used less than 100, and then went away on the 24 March, I recently returned to the UK and decided to have another go at family history only to find that I had to buy another 300 units to which my remaining units would be added. I would then have a possible 500 units to use, before I have used my original 300 units which does not seem quite FAIR? I had to buy the new 300 units because they have a time out ruling in their T/C.

We’ve just moved house and Saga charged us £45 fee to change our address on our car insurance.We will not renew with them!

Barbara Aimson says:
22 June 2016

We recently changed our car, Saga wanted a extra £150, went on compare the market got it for less than we’d paid with Saga for the old car, cancelled the saga policy charge £50. We had all our Insurance with them, won’t be renewing

Was the charge just for changing the address or because you moved to an area more prone to incidents and/or theft? For example car insurance in big cities is more expensive than in a rural areas.

It is not unreasanoble to charge more for moving into a different area.

That is a valid reason if there is an increased risk involved, Frenske. If the risk is less then the insurance company will obviously benefit.

When mentioning fees for alterations in terms & conditions, companies should explain that some changes will be associated with an increase in risk. I suggest that the also state that they will not change for amendments that do not affect risk.

Marion says:
22 June 2016

We have a van and a car insured via different insurers. When we came to renew the insurance on the van , we were told we had a claim in the past 3 years. This was on the car insurance and was recorded in that insurance.
This resulted in the insurance of the van rising by 33%. I was not aware that a claim on another separate vehicle with its own insurance was in anyway connected to the van insurance which has never had any claim.
2) when I pointed out we had no claims discount, I was told that the premium would still rise because we had had a claim. The No Claim discount is worked out on this revised premium value. Although when you reread the insurance small print it does say that , that is not how I have interpreted a no claims bonus over the last 35+ years I have been driving. I thought it protected my premium from going up but it doesn’t. It just gives me a discount on the revised premium. This needs to be more transparent.

No claims discount, and ncd protection, do give rise to misconceptions. Your discount will of course be reduced if you make a claim, but your ncd protection (if you have it) will prevent that. However as you make a claim you are regarded as a higher risk and your premium will be adjusted accordingly. When you complete your insurance proposal or renewal it will ask if you have had any accidents; it won’t matter whether it is on the vehicle you are insuring or not, it is simply assessing your risk to the insurer.

BT again, I’m afraid. We recently moved house from a house which had 2 BT telephone lines to one with only a single line (and for various reasons, we didn’t need a second line). For both lines at the old house we had paid the line rental in advance. BT arranged to transfer one line but initially refused a partial refund on the second line on the basis that advance line rentals are non-refundable (words buried in small print). Bizarrely, I got the impression they would have been prepared to spend time connecting a second line to the new house so I could get the “benefit” of what I had paid in advance. It took 2 or 3 calls, a positive threat with quoted prices to walk away completely from BT and probably a couple of hours on the telephone to finally make them see sense. Very poor customer service.

Is it fair to charge a fee for providing a paper bill?

It’s usually a discount for paperless billing, presumably to make it look more acceptable.

To the extent that it costs more to service your account it does seem fair to me, otherwise the cost of issuing you [and others] with paper bills plus postage would fall on customers who have agreed to reduce the company’s operating costs.

Charges can only be made if (a) they are notified & listed in the Contract BEFORE it is signed and (b) they are proprtionate to the actual cost of providing the service. Disproportionate charges can be challenged and many have been considered usurious by the Courts and ruled illegal.

Some years ago I changed from BT to Virgin for my TV,broadband and phone.
I have always had a BT Internet.com email address.
Unbeknown to me they started charging £1.60 a month for the privilege
some time ago but have now upped it to £5 a month.
They never bothered to contact me for the £1.60 a month charge
To change my email address after all this time would be real pain in the backside—so now I am lumbered with paying £60 a year for having
a BT address.

TREV says:
22 June 2016

GET A G MAIL ADDRESS good for whatever ISP you use send it to all your contacts and tell BT to go to Hell!

TREV says:
22 June 2016

Addendum to my reply
How can they charge you if you left BT They cannot just take money from your bank after a contract is terminated
At the same time BT did send out a warning e mail they would discontinue /block any @bt addresses after a certain date unless you paid, so some where you must have agreed ,if not get your money back ask your bank who authorised the transaction

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Niloc says:
22 June 2016

As a professional I have to pay indemnity in case of damages due to my not performing my occupation to a standard. The post office makes me pay insurance in case of their failure to deliver without damage which after all is their only function in this respect.

If the police or any other public body have to pay damages we the taxpayer fund the bill.

Why do they as individuals not have to likewise take out indemnity insurance to protect we the blameless public against such expenses? I am sure that this would make them more careful lest they become uninsurable.

As for some MPs ———-

Yvonne Duncan says:
23 June 2016

The same analogy for all public bodies and services. Why should the public pay when hospitals are sued? (sometimes for multiple millions of pounds). they should take out public indemnity insurance too.

I have a feeling that as a matter of policy the NHS insures itself since the alternative would be prohibitively expensive. Individual practitioners in various professions are required to take out professional indemnity insurance to ensure that recompense will be forthcoming for their clients or patients in the event of a claim against them.

To answer Niloc’s point about the Royal Mail, I don’t think insurance of a posted item is compulsory but if it is valuable or fragile it is a sensible precaution. I should think that over 90% of mail is not at risk of damage but the cost to the Royal Mail of insuring all of it would raise postal charges to exorbitant levels and do nothing to improve handling in transit. The cost to businesses of insuring selected postal items can be passed through to customers as a specific charge in individual cases or, if it is a common element in the service provision, be absorbed as just another overhead that is reflected in prices across the board.

I was hit by BT’s cessation fee when I moved house from Swindon to Suffolk. I had fulfilled my two year minimum term but was still billed for a cessation fee. I refused to pay but they tracked me down to my new home and I was forced to pay up. It’s time they were brought to book!

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