/ Money

Time to say goodbye to ‘rip off’ surcharges

Saturday 6 April doesn’t just mark the new tax year. I’ve been waiting for this day for months – 15 to be precise – as the government’s ban on excessive card surcharges finally comes in.

We’ve spent more than two years campaigning to ban ‘rip off’ surcharges.

We launched a super complaint to the Office of Fair Trading and, with support from more than 50,000 of you, we’re happy to announce that ‘rip off’ surcharges have finally been banned.

Excessive surcharges won’t be missed

It means that, as of today, card payment surcharges should be limited to the cost incurred to the trader for processing your transaction. Gone are the days of paying a surcharge per ticket or per leg of your flight. There should be no more flat fees of up to £7 for buying a £50 item, and we’ve seen the last of excessive fees for paying by debit card.

From now on, businesses will be required to prove that any surcharge they do implement is reflective of their costs.

We estimate that processing a debit card costs traders approximately 10-20p, so we expect surcharges for debit cards will become a thing of the past. Credit card surcharges should be no more than 2% of the total cost of your transaction, so a surcharge on a £200 purchase should never be more than £4.

We’ll keep our eyes open

Key industries like financial services and estate agents are excluded from the ban, while micro-businesses have been given until June 2014 to comply.

But we are pleased that a number of companies have already made improvements to their surcharging policies ahead of the ban coming in. You’ve sent us thousands of examples of excessive surcharging over the last few years, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on the issue.

If you find any examples of excessive surcharges after 6 April 2013, please report the guilty companies to us. We’ll let Trading Standards know about any companies breaching the new rules. And finally, we’d like to say a huge thank you for all your support for our ‘rip off’ charges campaign.

Comments
Guest
Em says:
6 April 2013

I note the DVLA are still charging a flat rate £2.50 regardless of the actual cost of the tax disc.

Guest
Seadog says:
21 September 2017

As of Sep 21 2017 the UK government (aka DVLA) are still charging £2.50 for credit card transactions. In my case this amounts to about 8% of the amount being paid. So much for the new regulations designed to prevent excessive charges for card transactions.

Guest

Here is a link to the super-complaint and the OFT response.

Well done Which? 🙂

I wonder if the Fixed Means Fixed campaign to prevent mobile phone companies from raising monthly prices during a contract might be the basis of another super-complaint. Sorry to be off-topic.

Guest

Thanks for the comment Wavechange. Our formal complaint to Ofcom was accepted and it launched a consultation off the back of it, just as the OFT did so here. As you know, we’re awaiting the outcome. But it’s best to talk about it here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/fixed-means-fixed-mobile-price-rise-ofcom-consultation-response/

Guest
Martin says:
6 April 2013

Just one clarification. Personal debit cards do indeed cost a pittance to process, but ‘Business’ or ‘Commercial’ debit cards are charged pretty much the same as credit cards, i.e. somewhere between 1.2% and 2%.

I know someone who is very senior in the payment card industry, who confirmed that the cost of processing to them is exactly the same as for personal debit cards, and the reason for the higher charges is ‘because we can’.

Also, Cardholder Not Present surcharges have been increased recently, so expect to pay a higher surcharge if you’re not there to enter you PIN.

I’m a small business owner, and my card charges are entirely in line with the new rules. I don’t charge for personal debit card payments, and I charge 2% for UK credit and business debit cards, and 3% for non UK cards of all types. Some months I win by a few quid, other months I lose by a few quid.

Guest

The relevant law is Section 4 of the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which states:

A trader must not charge consumers, in respect of the use of a given means of payment, fees that exceed the cost borne by the trader for the use of that means.

Does this also apply to electricity and gas companies who charge a higher price for energy when the consumer doesn’t pay by direct debit (e.g. by bank transfer or debit card)? Clearly where the price of the energy is higher because of the payment method used, the difference in price exceeds the costs borne by the energy supplier.

Guest
anon the mouse says:
6 April 2013

Interesting point, one I’ll happily put forward to my energy supplier as I pay more for pre-payment meters.

Guest
Indranil Banerjee says:
6 April 2013

We all forget the basic essence of a card transaction – it was to facilitate the seller to get more custom and the buyer the convenience of not carrying ready cash. Just as I, as a consumer cannot demand a commercial establishment – online or brick and mortar – to accept cards, similarly it is absolutely unfair to charge/demand any commission whatsoever to a customer as it is the establishment which had decided to accept such tranactions with a motive to make his business popular and accessible to as many as possible.
The presnt action will stop the gross unfair trade practices, but in the long run, especially in online transactions, such charges are to be totally abolished.

Guest
George Mellar says:
12 April 2013

I support this point of view entirely, suppliers are free to decline payment by card if they want to, but must accept that customers have a right to go elsewhere if they do so.
This is how it always was, and it is just greed and customer apathy that allows any supplier to get away with it.
Its like buying an item by post that’s post free. Of course its not post free, but the customer knows the cost and decides whether to buy or not.