The death of surcharges? Watchdog given power to crack down on companies

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has welcomed the passing of legislation that will finally give a regulator the power to crack down on companies slugging consumers with surcharges 1,000% above the cost of processing credit card payments.

“Airlines, ticketing companies and taxis are among the many businesses that have for years punished consumers who pay with credit cards. Even when faced with an earlier RBA ban, these corporate profiteers ignored the rule and continued to inflict pain on our hip pockets,” said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

CHOICE’s recent analysis of airline surcharges found sky-high booking fees that don’t reflect the cost of processing a credit card. The consumer group found that the Qantas $7 card surcharge was on a cheap flight 348% higher than it should be, and Jetstar’s $8.50 surcharge landed a whopping 1,187% mark-up.

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The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015 was passed by the Senate on Monday and gives the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) the power to crack down on companies charging excessive surcharges for card payments.

“We are delighted that the ACCC has finally been given the power to investigate if a surcharge is fair and issue infringement notices of up to $108,000 for companies that don’t play by the rules,” says Mr Godfrey.

“While we have new laws on the books, they won’t come into effect for some months, when the Reserve Bank finalises regulation. Until then, CHOICE will be shining a spotlight on those companies who take advantage of this last window to gouge their card-using customers.

“It couldn’t be clearer that the age of sky-high surcharging is over. So we are calling on companies like Qantas and Virgin to act in good faith and to end the pain by ditching their dodgy surcharges ahead of the laws taking effect.

“What better way to put your customers first than being the first to company to officially end the excessive surcharge frenzy.

“It’s time the airlines, ticketing companies and taxis stopped gouging their customers and started treating them with a little respect,” Mr Godfrey says.