/ Money

Our super-size surcharges campaign continues

Campaign logo

What a week! We had a giggle at Ryanair calling us ‘clueless clowns’ and watched airlines defend their ‘admin’ charges. But it’s not just airlines getting under your skin, the culprits include dentists and theatres.

Last Friday you joined us in standing up to unfair surcharges. We had high hopes that you’d feel as strongly about this as we do but we were overwhelmed by your support.

You’ve given us great feedback about who the goodies and baddies are – and highlighted other areas we can look into. So we thought you’d be keen to hear what happens next…

What happens to your pledges?

We’ve received over 17,000 pledges of support. We’ll be using your pledges as evidence in our super complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to demonstrate the number of UK consumers affected by this issue. We’re submitting it at the end of March. If you still haven’t pledged your support you can do so here:

It’s not just about airlines

You might have thought the super complaint is just about the airlines as this has been the focus of our pledge.

But it goes further than that. The surcharge super complaint raises issue with any industry charging unfair card fees – anything above 1-2% if paying by credit card and anything above 20p if paying by debit card!

Low cost airlines are often the worst offenders. But you’ve given us plenty more to add to that list. You’ve told us about dentists, cinemas, theatres, and even local councils stinging you with charges when it’s time to pay.

Your concerns about surcharges

Commenter Stephen Hicks raised concerns over how retailers will make up their losses if the OFT find the surcharges are unfair. ‘Ticket prices would rise to compensate, but at least we would not feel ripped off,’ he said.

Richard told us ‘it is easy enough – make all companies quote the actual cost to the customer at point of sale’. We’re definitely behind you on that one.

Dave Darwent told us that we’re just touching the surface of this issue. ‘Which? is missing a fantastic opportunity here to really help smaller traders: the Super Complaint should be about the BANKS charging these fees and forcing the retailers to have to pay for telephone and electricity services too.’

The digital community has rallied together to get our pledge promoted in all the right places, too. A big thank you to Martin Lewis for flagging it in your latest email and Travel Supermarket and Money High Street for embedding it on your sites. We’ve even made the embed code available so you can put it wherever you like (sorry Ryanair, you can’t stick it there).

We’re keeping track of all your examples to explain the breadth of the issue to the OFT. Please keep your ideas and personal experiences coming in. You never know, it might become the focus of our next investigation.


Can I just add that I love these debates. Can I suggest a topic for the next one:

Why don’t we solve the humongous debt by getting the banks to print money.

Of course, that would be ridiculous. But the point I’m making is that whilst we think certain practices are annoying and irritating, if you look under the covers, there is a reason why they happen. And if people genuinely think printing money would solve all our problems then I fear they really have lost the plot!

You may be interested in this topic then – it pretty much amounts to printing money: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/local-currencies/ Though it’s not the banks printing it 🙂

PCK says:
1 April 2011

An estate agent (not Foxtons) has charged my office £53.55 for making a credit card payment of £1103.55 to secure a rental property !!!

Philip Devine says:
4 April 2011

It is not just big busineses with unfair surcharges. My local theatre in Loughborough charge a booking fee of £1 even when paying by cash. This the claim is an admin charge. However they already take a fee for this from the local theatre groups in there charges.

Trasna says:
4 April 2011

I booked a holiday cottage with Sykes Cottages. They wanted £6 to pay by credit card. Fortunately I have a Visa debit card which I believe still gives protection.

MikiLeighB says:
4 April 2011

Can’t quite believe what has just happened!!! Just booked what I thought was an excellent flight deal from Ryanair to Limoges in May for two people. £12 per person each way with no taxes and free online check-in equals £48 you would think….NO!! Just been charged £6 per person per flight for using a Visa Debit card!! That’s £24, or put another way a 50% increase in price for using a Debit card online!!!! Good luck on the super complaint…..Ryanair should be taken to court and made to pay back every penny…..

Yes, outrageous. £36 each for a return flight to Limoges, sounds really awful. I’m assuming you didn’t go through with it, as it sounds completely outrageous, and that you voted with your feet? Please don’t tell us you actually went ahead and.. booked it?

And the next cheapest fare was…?

I really don’t understand what people are complaining about. Seriously I am scratching my head.

Dr. Hugh Janus says:
5 April 2011

Come on, Fat Sam, you know the complaint isn’t about the overall cost of the flights. I’m sure if MkLeighB had been told the flights would cost £36 with no surcharges he would’ve been delighted with that price. It’s the dishonesty of the surcharges he’s objecting to. Credit card payments are not only convenient for the buyer but the seller too so to make these charges punitive is pure exploitation. This, remember, is the airline that introduced charges for passengers to use the toilet. Maybe if Michael Ryan wasn’t so fond of betting on the horses he could afford to let them pee for free.

There is no justification for introducing a charge for using a credit card for payment. The travel companies were the first to introduce it because they said the profit margins were too small and therefore needed to make a charge to defray the costs.
This was rubbish and if it had been challenged at the time this policy would not have been continued. Credit card users have forgotten that these companies have their payment by card guaranteed by the banks provided that they follow the rules which are very basic. Not only that, the funds are credited to their account immediately instead of waiting for cheques to clear. Cash in their account. Time has moved on and debit cards can be used but these debit the user immediately with the obvious demands whereas the use of a credit or charge card allows the user to manage their money efficiently without undue pressure. The travel company gains and so does the user! Rates charged by credit card companies are negotiated with the retail company. generally these rates relate to turnover and also to profit margins – for example a jeweller will pay a higher rate than someone with a lower profit margin [at least they did in my day!] to be honest it really ****** me off that these companies introduce a charge. As a retired bank manager I understand the reasons that these companies try to screw the public but it is outrageous and should be resisted at all times.
I take my car to be serviced annually to a main dealer. A couple of years ago Mercedes said that they would not accept cheques and additionally they wanted to charge for accepting credit cards. They were told in no uncertain term that they would never, ever service my car and if possible any of my friends if they pursued this policy. They still include it in their charges but I have heard them say ‘we will wave that charge’ (big deal!!!!!!) We have to fight and even cut off our nose to spite our face! Please support the [no credit card charge] campaign. There isn’t one; it’s up to you to dig your heels in!

Jal says:
5 April 2011

A couple of years ago I bought tickets from the Nottingham Arena for the Ice Hockey playoff weekend at £70 per adult weekend ticket (3 games), each ticket attracted a £7 booking fee as I paid with a credit card. An additional £28 on 4 tickets!! Not a bad earner is it for someone?! Needless to say I have since bought my tickets in person and paid face value in cash – which opens another can of worms, businesses paying cash into the bank are hammered for much bigger fees than the banks charge for their merchant services, so how come these aren’t multiplied and passed on to the long suffering customer as the card charges are??

G.V. Annoyed says:
7 April 2011

London Theatres! – what more can I say.

If you want to book a ticket ahead of time (and can’t physically get to the booking office) the ticket offices really rip you off. I recently bought 4 tickets from Ticketmaster and paid £32 service charge (£8/ticket) plus £3.75 processing fee. There was no remote way, that I could see, of avoiding these astronomical add ons.

Patrick says:
13 April 2011

I realise that this would never happen but it would be brilliant if the credit card companies conspired to not process payments to companies that are known to rip off customers for using their cards. If customers weren’t able to buy flights with credit cards I think the airlines (and others) would soon change their practices.

BTW. You can add Eurocamp to your list of ‘offenders’

13 April 2011

I have booked a holiday with Viking River Cruises and was informed that a 2% charge would be applied to pay using my Credit Card this amounted to £65. I therfore paid using my Debit Card.
How can such a sum be remotely justified?

Here’s a game. Next time you’re charged 2.5% for using a card, complain that everyone else is charging 3% and insist they do the same! They won’t know whether to treat you as a crank or think they’re missing a trick!

Sue Wearne-Handforth says:
23 April 2011

Even London 2012 Ticketing for the Olympics is at it!
On the very last page of the application form there is a £6 ‘Delivery Cost’! (or £12 if outside the UK).
Either it is incorrectly termed & is in reality a ‘processing fee’ or just an additional income for the Company. Imagine the total additional revenue gleened from all successful applicants. Massive!

Tickets like these are always sent Special Delivery to guarantee delivery (unlike Recorded delivery). Special Delivery costs £5.45 and includes compensation in the event of loss.

Doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. The Olympics are expensive enough – why should taxpayers subsidise event attendees’ postal delivery charges?

Fat Sam obviously has time to to read all the small print for every transaction he makes. Crossing t’s and dotting i’s. Because so many businesses are devious to the point of being fraudulent and clever, clever. This should be illegal! All offers to provide a service or goods should include all costs pertaining to the receipt of those services in FULL to include delivery, where this is the only way the transaction can be completed advertised as the total expenditure. If there are situations where concessions can be made, such as collection from a local supplier or from a cinema kiosk then these should be subject to a rebate. Open ended contracts such as day work and mutual agreements are elements for some trades and tasks but there you have fully detailed contract with contingencies written in with appropriate adjudication proportional to risk. As normal purchases of every day items or services we should not be obliged to run the gauntlet of small print with exclusions and special cases designed to increase the headline price of any normal variation.
I do not expect to pay my bus fare and then find that I have to pay extra for carrying a shopping bag and extra for seat and extra to get off. That is a close analogy to the way we are being rooked.
It can only be described a deceit and sharp practice and should be outlawed then we may see more open competition for our custom and the step by step method of parting us from our money once we have made a commitment lead to bankruptcy for the smart alec’s. It should also apply all financial services. Making excuses for a lack of honesty stinks.

Nobody needs to look at the Ts and Is.

Just look at the figure displayed next to the words ‘amount to pay’. It really couldn’t be much simpler.

If you don’t like it then don’t do it. Are people finding that really difficult? Seems like one of life’s easier choices. No wonder we live in ‘Rip Off Britain’ when there’s a huge market in this country for people literally asking to be ripped off! Your choice!

I recently needed to make a last minute final balance payment of over £2,000 to Page & Moy for a holiday. There was a charge for credit card payment but debit card was free. However, I was waiting for a savings account transfer to come through into my current account so that I could use my debit card without going overdrawn. As we would be away on the date when the balance payment was due, I phoned Page & Moy and asked if they could take a debit card payment now but defer it until the final due date. They said they could not do this. I then suggested that I could send them a cheque which should arrive after my savings transfer had gone through but before the due date. They said that they would charge a £10 “handling fee” for cheque transactions!

I couldn’t see any reference to this charge in their literature and wonder if this is the latest form of attack on cheque usage. I am concerned as it is about the intended withdrawal of cheques. In the end, the savings transfer came through in time for me to make the balance payment before going away but these organisations do seem to push you into a corner where there is little option but pay fees of some sort.

Marie McDonald says:
27 April 2011

I paid a monthly broadband subscription of £10.62 to Talk Talk by credit card. I’ve had an additional £4.50 added to my account for not paying by direct debit. That’s 42% of the monthly charge!!

Or – for those who pay by Direct Debit – see it as a £4.50/month discount.

Fat Sam, I’m beginning to think you’re either someone who runs a business that charges customers for using cards – or you’re the kind of person who walks into a shop, takes everything there and walks out without paying on the belief that you get a 5 finger discount…

Fat sam says just look at the amount to pay, we are saying that the T Total amount to pay is greater than the headline offer price in the advertised cost for the the item or service. They don’t list the cost of ‘extras’ or give any indication of additional costs. Trading Standards and The Advertising Authority should use their powers to fine companies or ban their adverts if they mislead. All we are asking for is up front honesty, not a screed written by politicians. The i’s would be worn out if you went through all the terms and conditions of many traders and many of them are unreasonable any way. You would be too old to utilise some service by the time you had found out the full meanings and eliminated all the ambiguities. You may have the time and the wit but we mere mortals have lives to lead

Michael, give me an example where a company charged you more than the amount you saw you had to pay at the point of paying. If that is the case, then that’s fraud. But I await your evidence.

Agreed, many companies pile on charges above the often advertised headline figure, but at most that’s annoying and irritating. Agreed. But ultimately, the total amount owed is shown at the point you have to pay. Whether or not you go ahead with that transaction, or refrain, or complain, is entirely up to you.

If you are charged more than the amount shown then people have my sympathy, but that’s not what’s being reported in nearly every example in this conversation.

If you remove companies’ ability to show these additional charges (e.g. through legislation) they will simply raise their prices to over the total charges and then claim they are all doing us a favour. Who wants that?

By the way, Michael, I do have a life and a very good, rewarding and prosperous one at that. Partly because I play businesses at their own game but partly because I educate myself in the fairly easy and simple art of shopping around. The internet is stuffed full of useful tools and for a few minutes work you can save yourself a small fortune. If you can’t be bothered to invest in a few minutes work I can’t see how you can complain.

Fat Sam,
I yearn for the day when I see a price advertised for a holiday
or flights and know that is actually what I will end up paying. The range of
“extras” is becoming ridiculous – credit card fees, fuel surcharges, in flight meals,
boarding pass fees, luggage charges, seats together, seats with some legroom etc etc
I don’t understand why you seem happy with this type of
customer service. I am becoming very tired of playing this game. You don’t happen to
be an airline marketing manager, do you?

Dr. Hugh Janus says:
30 April 2011

Rather than an airline manager, I suspect Sam is one of those people who always has to take the opposite view from everyone else in an attempt to provoke a reaction, which, it has to be said, he has shown himself to be very adept at doing. I’m sure Sam is no happier at being ripped off than the rest of us but playing Devil’s Advocate is much more fun than being just another voice in a chorus of dissent.

entelechy, can you read? If you could then you will have read that I have stated repeatedly that these charges are annoying and irritating. Does that sound like I’m happy? You tell me.

The point I’m making is that we have a choice and if we completely outlawed this practice that companies will find other ways to recoup their losses and hide their charges in far higher prices. Brilliant. Not.

I’d only be in favour of making additional charges much clearer – but wouldn’t support an outright ban.

Dr Hugh Janus, thank you – you’re almost right. I tend to look at all arguments and then form an objective opinion based on evidence – rather than emotions. Put it this way: I’m not the type who gets excited about protecting a species just because it happens to be cute and furry. Unlike, I suspect, most of those above.

The British love a good moan. How can people moan about additional charges on no frills flight prices when, even with all the charges added on, they are still MILES cheaper than the no-extra-charges frills competition! Ridiculous.

I don’t see many moaning about companies adding on P&P charges. But that’s acceptable even when the charges clearly exceed the actual cost of P&P. We don’t like things that may appear different, do we?

PS I wish people would read my posts more carefully. And form an objective opinion instead of jumping on to some emotional bandwagon.

I have been embarrassed when asked to pay more than the advertised price at a cinema with a credit card charge, with a long queue behind me, I did not take great issue as a) I wanted to see the film and had already paid out train fare and b) I did not want to create a riot by holding up the queue while I had a long argument. Suffice it to say, I said my piece briefly in a loud voice and two people behind me left the queue. I have also been charged a higher than advertised price at Supermarkets on occasions and have taken issue at their customer services desk. Success rate for refund about 50-50. Many would not challenge their bill. Like you, I shop expeditiously and research most of my major purchases as I too like to get the best value I can. My argument is that as a customer for a service which comprises other essential elements to be included before it can effectively be delivered should include the cost of the total package. I should think many of these additional charge airlines may soon start smelling strongly of urine. They take the p – they can keep it!

Gill Wales says:
3 May 2011

My local theatre and concert hall (Brighton Dome, owned by Brighton and Hove City council) adds a 90p per ticket charge to tickets paid for by either debit or credit card. This is not to cover postage, it applies to tickets bought in person at the box ofice. The extra charge is not advertised in advance and there is no notice about it at the box office. So you only find out about it at the point of paying for the putchase.

They claim that the charges are added by the event promoters, which I don’t believe, since the charg is applied regardless of the event. Given the price of tickets and that most people will buy at least two per event, each transaction is much more than a typical cash purchase, so buyers have to go to considerable trouble (cancelling the purcahse, finding a cash point and then requeuing all voer again) to avoid paying it.

Gill Wales says:
3 May 2011

Since a law change in October 2010, pubs and restaurants must sell wine in 125 ml measures as well as 175ml and 250ml. But many pubs charge only 25p less than for a 175ml measure (the differential between 175ml and 250ml being around £1). One pub, when asked for a 125ml glass of wine, said ‘I can sell you 125ml but I will have to charge you for 175ml’. The purpose of the law change was to discourage people (especially women) drinking too much too quickly. This pricing behaviour undermines an important public health initiative.