/ Money

Your help makes companies act on rip-off surcharges

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We’ve been overwhelmed by your support for our surcharges campaign, which brought about a ban on excessive charges. And now five companies are changing their rules due to your reports…

Most of you know this story well. In 2011 we issued a super complaint to the Office of Fair Trading over the excessive surcharges some companies charge you for paying by card.

You signed your names, emailed a Member of European Parliament and hassled the Treasury to take action. And take action they did by passing a law banning companies from charging you more than it costs them to process a card transaction.

But since the ban came into force you’ve caught some companies we believe to be flouting the rules. The good news is that First Choice, Thomson, EasyJet and Mytrainticket have all agreed to reduce their credit card fees after our you reported them. And EasyCar has gone even further by completely abolishing its fees for credit and debit cards.

Kay’s chuffed First Choice changed its rules

Kay booked a holiday with First Choice and ended up paying £56.25p to pay by credit card. She always books her holiday with a credit card so that she can have the protection of the card company. Kay told us about a previous experience:

Kay‘The holiday company I was using went into liquidation and I lost my money. Therefore we do not feel that we have any choice but to pay the credit card administration fee which we have always felt was rather high.’

She then told us her reaction to First Choice changing its rules:

‘I was surprised to read an article in Which? magazine advising that it might not be lawful to charge such an amount. I reported the details using Which?’s online tool. Which? contacted me to say that they challenged First Choice and the fee is going to be reduced. We are very happy with this result as holidays work out expensive enough as it is!’

But sadly it’s not all good news. There are a number of companies who we believe still aren’t playing fair. But don’t worry, eDreams, EasyBus, Vueling, Monarch, Jet2 and Germanwings are all on our hit list and we’re now referring them to Trading Standards to enforce the rules.

A huge thank you to all who have brought these charges to our attention – please keep reporting them with our tool and help us take action.

Comments
Member

I have discovered that many local authorities are similarly breaching the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012 for payments by credit card for on-street parking. Many councils contract out payments by credit card for parking to Park-Mobile (UK) Limited, which also operates under the RinGo brand name. Parkmobile adds a 20p surcharge for payments by card. This surcharge breaches Regulation 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“. It costs a percentage (typically 1% to 2%) to collect payment by credit card. In all cases, this percentage will be less than the substantial cost of collecting payment by coins. Therefore if there is to be a price difference between payment by coins and credit card, there should be a discount for paying by credit card; a surcharge breaches the Regulations.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published detailed guidance on the Regulations which explains that Trading Standards have responsibility for enforcement. At the top of page 5 of the guidance, it is stated that car parking offered by local authorities is included within the scope of the Regulations. Although Regulation 5(j) excludes “automatic vending machines” from the Regulations, the breach occurs where such a machine is not used because Parkmobile processes payments by telephone or smartphone app.

Parkmobile claims that the 20p fee is a “convenience fee”. However, it is not relevant what the fee is called but whether or not it is dependent on the means of payment. For example, Ryanair called its £6 debit card surcharge an “admin fee”, which ceased because it would breach the Regulations. Likewise this 20p “convenience fee” breaches the Regulations.

It is immaterial that local authorities contract out processing of card payments to an external company, even if it chooses to process cash payments in-house. Either Parkmobile’s processing fees must be paid and absorbed by local authorities or the costs of all payment methods must be added to advertised parking charges. It is not permissible under the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012 to surcharge for one payment method and not for another where the surcharged payment method is less costly.

It is immaterial that local authorities do not receive this payment surcharge, because they are the suppliers of the service and responsible for ensuring that any payment surcharges comply with the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012.

20p might sound like a small amount of money, but it is a hefty 20% surcharge on a typical £1 parking charge and in aggregate the amounts are huge. Trading Standards within local authorities seem reluctant to take action against their colleagues in their parking departments; there is a conflict of interest here. I have consulted Which Legal Service, who confirmed that the surcharge is a breach of the Regulations. Perhaps Which can put pressure on Trading Standards to take action across the country.

Member

Another remaining culprit is mobile phone networks. Although the Regulations don’t apply to contracts started before 6th April 2013, the mobile networks are charging around £3.50 per month if the customer pays by any means other than direct debit, even bank transfer, irrespective of when the contract started. Even with a business bank account, it costs nothing to receive an electronic payment from within the UK.

As stated on page 12 of BIS’s guidance (see my post above), a business cannot take into account general administrative overheads. Therefore if it has to spend more time chasing customers who pay by bank transfer compared to direct debit, it cannot take these costs into account in its surcharges. It can use only the cost of the payment itself, not any difference in the general overheads of servicing each category of customer.

The same is true of gas and electricity suppliers, but that one is more complicated because the payment frequency is different for payment by direct debit.

Member
mwwilson says:
7 October 2013

BT have an infinite payment surcharge for landlines.

If you are in credit (eg pay in advance of the bill), and so owe them nothing, you still get hit with a payment processing fee of £6.00 for not having a direct debit in place to not pay them anything.

The same fee is levied for paying nothing, BACS transfers as debit card, credit cards and cheques in the post which is clearly incorrect.

Member

That is outrageous. Do they still add this surcharge if there is a direct debit in place but you don’t owe them anything? How do they know that the direct debit is cancelled when you don’t owe them anything?

Member
mwwilson says:
12 October 2013

Probably not, but as I won’t trust them with a direct debit I don’t know.

It is essentially a ‘direct debit refusenik’ penalty charge.

Member

I’ve tried reporting a surcharge twice on different days including today, and I just get an error message saying “We are unable to display this action, our trained lemmings are investigating the issue, thank you for your patience“.

Member

Somebody should be looking very closely at SUNMASTER.CO.UK.
They have charged me 1.5%for paying by debit card.. And
Offer one price on the website, but confirm your booking by phone, which by then your flight has unfortunately gone up in price…
Accepted my booking for the hotel that was actually closing before my holiday dates… Wouldn’t let me choose my own alternative or have a refund…. Then charged me for the alteration that was their fault! In the end, I have paid roughly £300+ extra to the price when booked online.
Needless to say I won’t be booking with them ever again and duly warn people to beware when they are buying through them.

Member
Richard says:
12 October 2013

There is an entertainments venue near where I live, called Anvil Arts. They have been charging a £1.00 booking fee per ticket when you pay by card, for quite sometime now. If you paid by cash at the counter however, you would not be charged the booking fee.

However they recently changed their minds on this. Every ticket purchased is now subject to the astronomical £1.00 charge, even if you pay with cash in person.

I think this is totally wrong and don’t think they should be getting away with it. I mean is it legal to charge a transaction fee if you pay by cash anyway?

The company have basically given a load of old rubbish about why they have to do this, but it doesn’t wash with me and a few other people it seems. Somebody has already hit out about this, in my local paper.

Member
Price Watcher says:
13 October 2013

Bracknell Forest Borough Council make a fixed rate charge of 80 pence when using a debit card to purchase tickets for their Wilde Theatre – which they own. This also applies to credit card transactions and the only way to avoid the fee is to pay cash

Member
Roger Linforth says:
13 October 2013

I have been travelling regularly from Birmingham to Austria over the last four and a half years, and when ever I have used an ATM to draw out cash usually 300 Euros at a time my Bank in England LLoyds TSB have charged me roughly three pounds eighty per transaction, now that Lloyds and TSB have been forced to split I have been reverted to the TSB, and now when I draw 300 Euros out of the same bank in Austria the TSB are still charging me the three pounds eighty plus they have also whacked on an extra charge that brings the total now to just under 11 pounds,I was very miffed to put it mildly and I phoned up the help line from the number on the back of my TSB debit card from Austria and it was like talking to a parrot who kept going round and round in circles on a premium rate line, When I next returned to England I went to see my Bank manager and told him I thought they were ripping me off and I was going to change my bank account to Santander who only charge 1.5% to draw cash out from abroad, at this the TSB manager refunded me the difference plus 15 pounds as agood will gesture for my wasted hour with him,and he has said he will review the situation again in 6 months time and during that 6 months he will keep refunding me the difference, I think they rely on people just shrugging there shoulders and accepting what is thrown at them,The I do not want to make a fuss attitude, well stuff that for a lark I have been with the bank since 1980 and so far have not had any problems but I will have no qualms about changing to Santander if the TSB (or as I call it the Toy savings bank) do not pull there socks up pretty smartly.

Member
tina says:
28 January 2014

I recently booked a flight to Ireland and nearly every website I visited showed prices that included a “discount” that was only available if you paid with MasterCard Debit – surely this is just a sneaky way of getting round the ban on surcharges? I paid more than the advertised price to pay with a Visa debit card.

Member
DickieMint says:
9 February 2014

Are B & Bs covered under this Directive?
Booking through laterooms.com I had to give my card details is advance to “guarantee” the booking. I was told I could settle up in cash or by debit Card with the B & B. When trying to their “manager” (they were absent) said she’d been told they’d already taken the payment plus 3%.
So two things. One, no way of avoiding a compulsory Credit Card charge; and, two, a CC charge in excess of the directive.

Member

I read on Which that Easyjet is one of a number of companies that had agree to reduce card charges after having been contacted on the subject my the magazine. However Easyjet Holidays accessible only through the Easyjet website still charges 1% on payments by debit card and 3.5% if payment is made by credit card. These charges are particularly punitive as holidays tend to be high cost purchases. I have advised Which of this using the online tool and I have written to Easyjet Holidays seeking a refund.

Member

Surrey cricket club charges no fee for debit cards but for credit cards, they charge £1.75 per ticket, even for a £1 ticket.

Member
Malcolm Burren says:
20 February 2014

Just got the renewal for my wife’s car insurance with Diamond, part of the Admiral group. Policy cost including Insurance Tax is £187.62. Credit Card Charge is £5.95 (nearly 3.2% of the renewal price). Seems to be a standard add on figure as it was the same last year. The Co-op who, my car is insured with, charge absolutely nothing for paying with a credit card.

Member
JLG says:
1 April 2014

Iglu Cruising charge 2.5% (They have charged me twice this year). Paid the balance of a cruise and deposit for another and each time they charge 2.5%. I actually queried this at the time and was informed this is what they are charged by the banks!!!!!!

Member
Prentonian says:
15 September 2014

P & O are charging 2% surcharge for credit card payments and I know 2% is the official legal maximum, however 2% on a £4k+ cruise is much more than 2% on other buys such as a concert ticket. Surely there should be a maximum the credit card companies charge e.g. £2.50 per transaction. I am paying £88 per transaction. Rip off or what !

Member

Credit card companies are making a substantial profit on both sides of the transaction. They charge the merchant too much for having instant access to the customer’s money and they charge the customer exorbitant interest rates if they do not clear the debt at the first opportunity. Unless people can save up sufficiently in advance, paying by credit card is a covenient way of paying for major purchases by spreading the cost over a few months and choosing how much to pay each month and in how many instalments – flexibility that is rarely available under any other kind of credit or hire purchase agreement. This convenience has always come at a price but I was surprised that – apparently on the basis of no evidence whatsoever put forward in public – 2% became the accepted norm with hardly any protest and seemingly total acquiescence from the consumer movement and the government. Obviously, credit card companies could charge less, and big companies like P&O that sell high-price holidays could negotiate lower charges, but somehow there seems to be no pressure for that to happen.

Member
Karen Griffin says:
3 November 2014

Ryanair imposed extortionate of 70 each per person fee for not checking in online before a recent flight and would not listen when I explained that I had trouble online with “error codes” and had been emailing them for weeks re this. Felt as if I was treated as a liar. After emailing a complaint got a standard reply that it was the rules and fee was fairly charged by them. This is a dumb answer and excessive charge, I attached copy emails to which I had sent them, all to no avail. There appears to be no route to go down to complain as all that happens is standard fob-off reply that they are entitled to impose unfair charges.

Member
Diane Fuller says:
30 March 2015

Where did this 2% charge to process credit card bookings come from? I’ve just been stung by Cottages4you for £23.66 “payment fee”. If online retailers can process credit card payments without adding surcharges to the purchase price why are the others allowed to get away with it.
In any case, the workload to process a credit card payment is a few keystrokes, probably less than 30 seconds, the cost is negligible. If consumers have to pay this charge then it should be a flat fee,
£1 should cover it and they’ll still have change (which they won’t refund)!

Member
GP says:
12 June 2015

I bought a washer/dryer from Currys on their 6 months interest free scheme, when I received the account settlement letter from Creation.co.uk they are going to charge £3 administration fee for debit card or charge 3% for credit card payment my settlement fee already includes a £25 administration fee.