Which? to launch card fee super complaint Call for end to credit and debit card ‘rip-off’

11 February 2011

Red-coloured credit card

Many travel companies charge over the odds if you want to pay by credit or debit card

Which? has today announced plans to launch a super complaint against the surcharges that many companies impose when customers pay with a debit or credit card.

Which? will use its powers to force the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate card surcharges, which are often sprung on the customer at the point of payment and can be far in excess of what it costs the company to process the transaction.

Low-cost airlines are among the worst offenders, with some charging a fee per passenger, per leg of the journey, in spite of the fact that they only have to process one transaction.

For example, a family of four booking a return flight with Ryanair would be charged £40 to pay by card when the cost to the airline would be around 20 pence to process a debit card payment and no more than 2% of the transaction value for a credit card. The same family would be charged £36 by Flybe. Flying with EasyJet would cost £5.50 for paying for return flights by debit card or £5.50 plus 2.5% of the transaction if paying by credit card.

Which? has also found that local authorities, estate agents, cinemas and even the DVLA are now beginning to levy excessive charges for paying by card.

No justification for excessive card charges

Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, says: 'There's simply no justification for excessive card charges - paying by card should cost the consumer the same amount that it costs the retailer. 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? will be submitting its super-complaint in March and is today launching a petition, which it will hand to the OFT at the same time.

  • You can sign up and pledge your support for the Which? campaign to stop rip-off charges on our card surcharges campaign page.

What is a super complaint?

Which?, as a registered consumer charity, has legal powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 enabling it to file super-complaints with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). A super complaint allows designated consumer bodies to complain to the OFT and specific sectoral regulators about market features that may be significantly harming consumers' interests.

Once Which? has submitted its super complaint to the OFT, the regulator has 90 days to respond. Which? last issued a super complaint in May 2007, when it asked the OFT to investigate the Scottish Legal Services market.

Which? wants its super complaint to result in:

  • Companies 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 company – this shouldn’t be a hidden way of making money
  • For debit cards, as the cost to the retailer is so small, we think it’s more reasonable for the retailer to absorb the cost and not pass it on to their customers

Which? credit and debit card charges campaign 

Please pledge your support for the Which? bid to stop rip-off charges on our card surcharges campaign page. The petition will be submitted along with the super-complaint to the OFT on Monday 7 March.

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