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Success! OFT agrees ‘rip off’ surcharges are unfair

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As People Power week’s under way, what perfect timing to reveal that your help has resulted in a consumer victory! We have exciting news about our surcharges campaign – and we couldn’t have done it without you.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced today that it too agrees with our surcharges super complaint.

It’s provided its recommendations for a short and long-term solution to the issue of excessive card surcharges. The quick win is price transparency.

Publish transparent prices

The OFT will be cracking down on companies that make it difficult to work out the true cost of purchasing something when paying by debit or credit card.

We’ve found that some websites will take you two or three pages in before explaining that paying by credit card will seriously bump up the price. In fact, some have left it until the final stages of checkout before adding in this ever so important detail.

Many of you have told us that it’s not so much the price, but the sneaky way these surcharges are added on when you’ve little choice to turn back that really irritates them.

Don’t drag your feet

Well the OFT’s response, and plans for enforcement action, should put a stop to this. But our message to companies – particularly those ‘no frills’ airlines – is why wait for the OFT to take action? If you know you’ll get rapped in the upcoming months, do it now and declare the costs upfront.

But what about addressing the excessiveness of the surcharge? Who’s going to fix that? Essentially, we need legislation to bring these costs back into line.

You’ve been helping us lobby Ed Davey, the UK consumer affairs minister, to support the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), which includes a proposed ban of excessive surcharging.

2,400 emails to Ed Davey

We accept that there will likely be a charge for paying by credit card, but this should be a fair charge – up to 2% of the amount you’re paying. And as far as debit cards, since it only costs the retailer around 20p, there shouldn’t really be a charge at all.

2,400 of you felt the same and took to your keyboard to tailor our template email. Ed Davey took note as he wrote to our chief executive to share his concerns.

I feel strongly that your emails helped convince the minister, and in turn his European counterparts, to keep the proposed ban in the legislation.

The changes to the CRD will take a couple of years to come into affect, but this is the part of the law that could force companies to make surcharges cost reflective.

Another proposal from the OFT recommends an amendment to the Payment Service Regulations to force companies, by law, to be honest about their pricing.

So will companies take note and get into shape before the law forces them to? Anyone care to bet on the companies that may lag behind? For now, lets rejoice in the news that together we’ve successfully made the case that excessive surcharges are too big to leave untouched.

stepper says:
16 July 2011

We are all just cows in a field – and we are rounded up en masse and being milked to death. When there is no more milk for those shareholders that are used to large profits we will be slaughtered and every part of us consumed. This applies to Banks, Energy Companies, Travel etc, we are bombarded on all quarters. Sorry to sound to dismal but we are manipulated like brainless animals. We are told how foolish we have been by borrowing too much money and getting into debt – but didn’t the banks etc enjoy years of huge profits, not everybody defaulted and many struggle on paying. I think its time the big fat lazy cats were weaned off milk – en masse.

John Crofts says:
21 July 2011

Nottingham City Council charges 5% for both Debit and Credit card transactions for the sale of theatre tickets. They accept cash and cheques without charge! It costs far more in labour etc to process transactions in this way than by debit card. I have complained to the chief executive and copied my complaint to my MP.

Berni Bieganowski says:
22 July 2011

Only yesterday (21st July 2011) the airline Jet2 added almost £10 for paying by debit card for flights. So this airline has not yet acted on the OFT decision. The particularly perverse aspect of this is that not only are the airlines charging 50 times what it costs them to process a debit card transaction but also this is only added at the very last stage in the online process with no previous warning that this will happen AND the airline has the money in their bank account for months, sometimes as much as a year, in advance of the flight so the company is able to earn interest on your money for a very long time before the service is finally provided.

Joe French says:
22 July 2011

When are these Rip Off Charges going to Stop. I have just booked a Flight on Easyjet and have been charged £8 for paying with a Debit Card.
Joe French.

I wrote to the OFT on 3 December 2009 about this issue. Olushola Egbowon at the OFT replied on 25 January 2010 saying that the OFT took action in 2007 about misleading prices and the practice of adding charges for debit card transactions. But obviously not to any effect! It transpired that EC Regulation 1008/2008 came into force on 1 November 2008 which stated that airlines must display the final price at the start of the booking process. This law has not yet been adhered to by the airline companies. Apparently UK legislation implementing sanctions for non-compliance with article 23 of 1008/2008 has never been put in place. The regulation has legal force but there is no means of enforcement in the UK. So this problem is the fault of both the last UK government and the current government for not getting around to putting the law on the statute books. So get writing to Ed Davey the Consumer Affairs Minister asking him to pull his finger out and finally take some action!

Steve Beattie says:
25 July 2011

I booked a return flight with Flybe on the web, after entering my credit card details and agreeing with the price of £69;98 the final price after the process went ahead came back as £79;98,a total of £10 extra transaction charge. I rang at the start of business the following morning to complain only to be placed on hold for approximately 29 mins whereupon I gave up.
I then wrote to them on line and explained that I was not happy with this action of an extra charge and requested a full refund and to cancel my booking. They wrote back to me stating that under no circumstances was I to receive a refund.
Can anyone tell me what rights I have to continue and possibly win my argument.

Thanks Steve

I have just booked flights with Easyjet today (26 July) and the cost for booking with a credit card was more than £13. When will the unfair charges stop?

D Cooke says:
30 July 2011

As far as the airlines are concerned, they should not be allowed to charge more than the maximum charged by the credit card companies. Let’s be generous then, and be prepared to accept a 2% transaction cost for credit cards.

Terry Draper says:
3 August 2011

Cambridge City Council charged me £12 to purchase 6 tickets @ £15 each using a debit card – in person at their booking office. That’s 11.4% on top of the cash price. I hope that if any action is taken it will cover the public sector too.

Terry Draper says:
3 August 2011

Sorry, 7 tickets – that’ll teach me to hit send without reading the message first!

Joy Thomson says:
10 August 2011

Well done Which – but is this going to make any difference. The charges for airlines such as flybe have always been published clearly, we know exactly what a large card fee we will have to pay but you have no option but to pay them Living in the Channel Islands we have to fly regularly, we cannot get Electron cards. Is your campaign going to persuade organisations such as these airlines to reduce their charges? I wonder.

Paul McFarling says:
11 August 2011

Just booked two tickets for Florida with Thompsons for next year. Got all the way to the end of the booking form on the web to be slapped with an extra £43.95 charge for using a credit card, Could have paid with a debit for zero charge but with the demise of holiday companies large and small wanted the protection of using my credit card. Did not realise how expensive that “peace of mind” would be.

It isn’t just the private sector that makes these charges. The DVLA charges £2.50 for using a credit card for on-line car tax renewal. If I paid for a 6 months tax disc this represents a 4.7% surcharge. There is no charge for paying by cheque through the Post Office which must surely be a more costly process. I will continue to support my village Post Office.
Incidentally the difference between a 6 months and 12 months licence is 10% which is also excessive.

If I remember rightly the Inland Revenue also have a credit card surcharge.

David says:
12 August 2011

2% credit card charge isn’t fair. Thomsons charged me £35 to use credit card, after not accepting my debit card.

1. My friend & I have just booked a holiday with Saga & normally each of us would pay our share direct to Saga but when we studied the invoice we were surprised to find that they charge £3 for each cheque used to pay. They also charge 2.5% (£58.45 in this case) for paying by credit card but don’t mention a charge for debit cards. At least the invioce is clear so we can arrange to get the money into one of our current accounts & pay by debit card. However this is the first time I’ve come across a charge for paying by cheque. We gave up paying by credit card some time ago because of the costs.

2. This week I booked some theatre tickets at the box office of The Theatre by The Lake, Keswick & was told that there was an extra booking fee of £1 if I paid by debit card. I paid in cash as I object to this extra charge when booking in person at the box office. It seems to me to be a way of increasing the ticket prices by stealth. Yesterday I booked some more theatre tickets with The Duke’s Theatre Lancaster on the phone, paid by debit card & the only charge was 50p for posting the tickets to me which I think is quite reasonable.

Graeme Lamont says:
15 August 2011

I’m now noticing another credit card rip-off starting. At BAA car parks – when paying by card you get a ‘processing fee”. Payment figure comes up e.g. 39GBP then put in card and 40.50GBP debited!
So if just over an hour, its 5.90 + 1.50!

FYI – The BAA website says in small print:
“Payment by credit card will be subject to an additional £0.50 processing fee on displayed tariffs up to and including 1 hour and £1.50 processing fee on all displayed tariffs thereafter”

Bobjob21 says:
16 August 2011

We all have to simply vote with our feet. Changing and then implementing consumer legislation simply takes too long. All credit to Which? but life is just too short to wait for sharp operators like Michael O’Leary to go straight. Take their business away and they will come around. I will never use Ryanair again. There – it’s easy isn’t it?

Is this already enforced?
I bought a £80 air ticket with Easyjet two days ago on Friday 16th of September 2011.
Card charges were not included in the advertised price and they are charging £4 on debit card payment each way and £6 on credit card payment each way.
I elected to pay with a debit card and therefore I paid additional £8 for a return ticket!


Last night we bought three tickets on Air France’s website. Although the website warned about the credit card fee (£4.50), we were surprised to see that AF charged us separately for each ticket, even though it was only one transaction. So, in the end we paid £13.50 for the credit card transaction fees. When are these charges going to stop? Is there anything we can do?

I have to say again – keep it up!

Being retired and living in London, I have time and a Freedom Pass. With organisations such as Wembley Arena, the Royal Albert Hall and others applying these insidious charges, I often make the effort to get cash from the ATM and go to the venue on the underground to pay for tickets. It shouldn’t be this way and I do feel a little (just a little) foolish, but all this is outweighed by the satisfaction I get when handing over real money where no crafty extra can be applied.

This really must stop. Using plastic means that the vendor gets his payment effectively at once and doesn’t have to handle or worry about the security of cash. The benefits to us all are obvious. Taking advantage in the way they are at present is nothing short of usury.