New rules come in to combat 'excessive' card charges

New rules come in to combat 'excessive' card charges

A ban on "excessive" debit and credit card charges across a range of sectors from hotels to cinemas came into force on Saturday.

The government said it should put an end to unscrupulous practices by some businesses.

The new rules are being brought in earlier than the rest of the EU Consumer Rights Directive, because of the concern that was first raised by consumer champion Which?

Previously consumers faced being asked to pay large surcharges for using cards, especially when booking online.

Under the new rules, payment surcharges will have to reflect the actual cost to the retailer of processing the card transaction.

That includes fees they have to pay to Visa or Mastercard, for instance, or the cost of installing a chip-and-pin device.

But in many cases, this should be minimal.

Someone spending £100 on a travel ticket could expect to be charged 53p extra if using a debit card, or £2.10 if using a credit card according to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The figures, produced in 2011, suggest the cost of using a debit card remains at just over 50p, however large the transaction.

But the government stresses that charges will differ according to individual businesses.

Airlines were the worst offenders until a probe by the OFT which led carriers to agree to include debit card charges at least in their headline prices.

The ferry industry was the next biggest user of surcharges, according to the government, charging its customers up to £145 million.

People are entitled to receive a refund of the excess surcharge they have paid, according to the government. If necessary, they can bring a private claim to recover such surcharges.

Consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson told the BBC: "The practice of excessive payment surcharges has been ripping off consumers for far too long.

"They are fed up of thinking they will be paying a certain price for goods, only to find out towards the end of the process that the final price is much higher.”

Very small businesses and start-up companies will not be subject to the rules until June 2014.

Some firms in financial services, gambling, healthcare, social services, property and passenger transport are also excluded.

Other elements of the directive will be implemented over the next year. Those include new rules on cancellations, refunds and delivery times.


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