Europe could deliver card charges changeLaw could put an end to unfair surcharges

24 March 2011

Credit card in the sky

The Consumer Rights Directive could put an end to sky high card fees once and for all. 

The Consumer Rights Directive, voted on by the European Parliament today, will now be debated by EU member states. Which? is lobbying consumer minister Ed Davey to ensure the Directive bans unfair and disproportionate surcharges.

The Consumer Rights Directive includes a measure which could stamp out the practice of excessive card surcharging. The measure would mean that companies could no longer charge as much as £5 to process a debit card payment, when the actual cost of processing amounts to no more than 20p.

The Directive complements Which?'s surcharge super complaint being submitted to the Office of Fair Trading on 30 March 2011. The super complaint could result in retailers being forced to declare all fees upfront. The Directive calls for fair and proportionate fees. If the amendment is kept, retailers could come under scrutiny in the court of law for extortionate fees.

Will Ed Davey support fair surcharges?

Which? is calling on consumers to lobby Ed Davey, UK Consumer Affairs minister, as he has a say in the final Directive. A final vote on the Directive will take place later this year, and if passed, could become EU law by 2013.

If the measure is agreed, retailers will no longer be able to use card surcharges to top up their revenue, and the prices you see at the beginning of a transaction will be fair and up front. These changes could make a huge difference for consumers, allowing them to compare deals and know that they are getting the best price.

Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith said:

'We're delighted that MEPs are making positive steps towards improving consumer rights. Which? has long argued that it's vital for consumers to be at the heart of these proposals and we're now starting to see that become a reality.'

Consumers demand an end to unfair card surcharges

Unfair card surcharges have always been a source of frustration for consumers, with budget airlines a frequent offender.

Which? investigations revealed that some airlines were charging up to £9 per passenger for a return flight if the customer wanted to pay by debit card.

Since we began our work to highlight this issue, over 30,000 people have pledged their support to the campaign. Others have come forward with examples of other companies that charge high card fees, and their own personal frustrations about the practice. 

Clint Kirk on Which? Conversation said: 'my main complaint is that these surcharges are often hidden away in the small print, or applied only after you've spent half an hour specifying the details of your order and entering all your credit card information.'

Another commenter added: 'online bookings save on call centre staff, yet charge extra for the privilege.'