New inquiry into credit card surcharges

The Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Committee has launched a new inquiry into credit card surcharges.

While the Reserve Bank has made a ruling that fees should only reflect underlying costs, there does not appear to be any way to enforce this ruling if a company chooses to ignore it.

CFA member CHOICE continues to campaign on this consumer rip-off. They are calling on consumers to take their poll about recent experiences with surcharges.

“It’s now 72 days since the rules came into effect and in this time, the worst excessive surcharging offenders – Cabcharge, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger – have continued charging Australians millions more in surcharges than it costs to process these transactions” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

In announcing the CCAAC inquiry the Assistant Treasurer called on consumers to “out” credit card fee gougers:

Consumers are being urged to out companies that are gouging their customers through excessive credit card surcharges and non-descript ‘transaction fees’, said Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury.

The Government has tasked its consumer affairs advisory council to look at the experiences of consumers who have been stung by these charges and identify possible solutions to the problem.

“Consumers are outraged at the exorbitant fees and charges some companies make them pay when buying goods and services with their credit cards,” said Mr Bradbury.

“With the growth in online commerce and the use of credit cards, some companies appear to view transaction fees as a way to profiteer.

“These surcharges are in many cases excessively high, not transparent and often hide the true cost of the goods and services you are buying.

“When credit card surcharges and other transaction fees are not declared at the start of a transaction, they can also become a sting in the tail – particularly when you are buying things like tickets.”

Under a ruling from the Reserve Bank, credit card surcharges are supposed to only reflect the reasonable cost of processing the transaction.

“It’s not good enough for companies to bundle excessive fees and charges into non-descript surcharges and expect consumers to pay without question.

“I want consumers to point out the worst surcharge offenders. The Government will await the findings of the review, but we do not rule out taking regulatory action to crack down on this fee-gouging practice.”

Consumers are encouraged to tell us their experiences by completing the survey located on the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) website. The survey will be open until 21 June 2013. Instructions on how to make a written submission can also be found on the CCAAC website. Stakeholders that wish to provide a brief submission to the terms of reference can do so by 21 June 2013.

It is expected that CCAAC will provide its report by the end of July 2013.