/ Money

Will our super complaint stop ‘rip off’ surcharges?

Plane flying through credit card

Being charged for paying by debit or credit card is clearly an issue that gets under a lot of people’s skin. We’ve now submitted our super complaint, but do you think this will put an end to greedy surcharges?

It only costs companies around 20p to process a debit card payment and no more than 2% of the transaction value for a credit card. Surcharges higher than this, especially if they’re hidden, are unfair.

Since we launched our campaign against excessive card charges, we’ve had over 40,000 pledges of support. We’ve also received hundreds of emails, letters and Which? Conversation comments from people telling us about their worst experiences with card fees.

Today, we’ve finally submitted our super complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and we’ll be including all the comments we received as part of our submission.

The worst surcharges you’ve encountered

While most of these comments relate to the unfair fees charged by budget airlines – and the lack of transparency – we’ve now also amassed dozens of examples of charges for paying by card in other industries.

The worst one to my mind was a firm of bailiffs, which acts on behalf of as many as 150 local authorities. It charges customers for paying by debit card as well as credit card. By the time the bailiffs are on your doorstep, you’re clearly in financial difficulty. So it’s insult to injury to hit customers with a charge for paying by card.

Another example that stuck out was the 12.5% charged by some taxi firms. Interestingly, it was an irate cabbie that alerted us. Not only did he think that the charges were extortionate – but he was also rather upset that the drivers didn’t get to see a penny of these fees.

It was also no surprise to see AOL appear in the league table of villains. Not only did it come bottom in our customer satisfaction survey last year – below every bank, shop and energy company – but we now know that it charges customers £1.99 to pay for their broadband by debit card. Quite the mark up on 20p.

Make sure to spread the word

We hope that the submission of our complaint today will mark the beginning of the end for these unfair charges. In short, this is what we’re asking for:

  • Companies to tell consumers up front if they levy surcharges and how much these are. This needs to be in plain language in their advertising and promotions.
  • Fair charges. The cost of paying by card to the consumer should be the same as the cost to the company. This shouldn’t be a hidden way of making money.
  • For debit card transactions, as the cost to the company is so small, we think it’s more reasonable for the retailer to absorb the cost and not pass it on to their customers.

The OFT will have 90 days to respond, so we’ll hear what they propose as a next step before the end of June.

In the meantime, please continue to spread the word about our campaign and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to support us at www.which.co.uk/ripoff. The more people who get behind us, the harder it will be for the OFT and the government to ignore this issue.

Linda says:
26 November 2011

Today I spent 25 minutes standing inline to purchase six tickets to see Joe Brown at the Grand Opera House, York. There were only four couples in front of me but the Grand were just interested in selling their ATG theatre card, When I was eventually served with my six tickets at a cost of £23.50 each, I was told that if I used my DEBIT card I would be charged an extra £3.50 per ticket. As I do not usually have £141 in my purse, i had to go and get the cash from the nearest ATM in order to avoid the £21 booking fee. How can anyone justify this scandalous practice?

Last year I took exception to paying a debit card surcharge for a season ticket for orchestral concerts since only a credit card surcharge was mentioned in the brochure. I was not charged the surcharge, which would have been the same as for a credit card.

This year there was no surcharge for using a debit card. I guess I was not the only one to complain.

kathryn says:
29 September 2012

i am angry that until i recently viewed a breakdown of my AOL charges i didn’t even realise they were charging me £1.99 a month for paying my bill by credit card i immediately changed to a debit card payment but still im being charged…….what a rip off.