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Super complaint made about excessive card charges

Super complaint made about excessive card charges

Category: Credit cards

Updated: 11/02/2011
First Published: 11/02/2011

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A super-complaint has been made against the practice of high surcharges that are forced on consumers when they pay with a credit or debit card.

Which? is to ask the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate the practice which is often sprung on customers at the point of payment and can be far in excess of what it costs the retailer to process the transaction.

Low cost airlines were found to be amongst the worst offenders, with charges of up to £40 made for transactions costing as little as 20p.

"We are happy to support Which? when they launch their super-complaint as it is not good enough for some businesses to generate profit by imposing inflated surcharges when their actual card processing costs are substantially lower," said Melanie Johnson, chair of The UK Cards Association.

Local authorities, estate agents, cinemas and even the DVLA were found to have charged excessively for paying by card.

"There's simply no justification for excessive card charges – paying by card should cost the consumer the same amount that it costs the retailer," said Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith.

"Companies shouldn't be using card processing costs as an excuse for boosting their profits.

"Low-cost airlines are some of the worst offenders when it comes to excessive card surcharges but this murky practice is becoming ever more widespread, from cinemas to hotels and even some local authorities."

Which? wants its super-complaint to result in:

  • Retailers to tell consumers upfront if they have surcharges and how much they are - this needs to be in plain language in their advertising and promotions;
  • Fair charges - the costs to the consumer should be the same as the cost to the retailer - this shouldn't be a hidden way of making money;
  • For debit cards, as the cost to the retailer is so small, Which? thinks it's more reasonable for the retailer to absorb the cost and not pass it on to their customers.

After the complaint is formerly made on 7 March, the OFT will have 90 days to give a response and will launch an investigation of its own if it feels there is a case to do so.

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