Customers lose hundreds as retailers impose card surcharges illegally

Written by Oliver Wade
21/01/2019

Consumers are still paying hundreds of pounds as retailers are illegally charging for card payments, despite credit and debit card surcharges being banned in January 2018, a BBC investigation has found.

The broadcaster revealed that retailers, letting agents and a university have been found breaching the rules, though the legislation dictates that customers cannot be charged more for opting to pay by card.

However, speaking to the BBC, Federation of Small Businesses senior media and communications adviser Matt Dickinson said it could be an “honest mistake”.

In some cases, the surcharge can be as little as 50p, but the prices can soar when companies change a percentage of the total amount to pay by card.

Furthermore, the University of Hull was found to be offering a 2 per cent discount to those students choosing to pay their tuition fees by means other than a credit card, which Chartered Trading Standards Institute lead officer of fair trading Sylvia Rook said was “no different” to a card surcharge.

As a result of this, students who paid this year’s annual tuition fees using either a debit or credit card were charged over £170 more than everyone else. Though the university claimed this was an “honest mistake” and those affected have already been refunded.

Following a directive from the European Union (EU), card surcharges on Visa and Mastercard payments were banned. Though, the UK expanded on this and further banned American Express and PayPal charges.

Trading standards officers are supposed to police the system, but as a result of financial cuts and pressure on services, the organisation said enforcement of rules on surcharges was “unlikely to be a priority” when the laws came into force a year ago.

According to estimates from the Treasury, consumers spent £473m on card surcharges in 2010.

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