From Cornwall Council:
Hidden charges for paying with a debit or credit card were banned across the UK in January 2018 yet Cornwall’s Trading Standards team is still finding regular examples of where the surcharges are still being imposed.
Hidden charges for paying with a debit or credit card were banned from 13 January 2018, with the intention of helping millions of UK consumers to avoid rip-off fees when spending their hard-earned money.
So-called ‘surcharging’ had become commonplace, particularly online, with many retailers hitting people with surprise charges just before they are about to make a purchase. Some retailers had been known to add charges which are far higher than it cost them to process a payment. It is estimated that surcharging cost shoppers £166 million in 2015.
The ban means that it is unlawful for retailers to charge additional fees when someone uses a particular credit or debit card, or other payment systems like PayPal, to make a purchase. This is intended to ensure that consumers can be confident that there won’t be any nasty surprises, and they won’t be penalised for wanting to pay in a particular way.
Introducing the ban last year, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen said: “It’s completely unfair for someone to be hit by a hidden fee just before they are about to make a purchase, so by scrapping these rip-off charges we are helping to give power back to the consumer.
“As we build a fairer society, this added transparency ensures buyers can make informed choices about how they spend their hard-earned money.”
However, investigations by Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team have revealed that the ban is widely ignored by businesses and consumers are still being subjected to the hidden surcharges for choosing the pay by credit or debit card. Now the Council is warning that businesses who fail to heed the advice and who continue to impose the card payment surcharges may face Court action.
Cllr Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Public Protection said: “The ban on credit and debit card surcharges has been in force for well over a year now and there can be no excuses for businesses that are still imposing these unlawful fees.
“To protect consumers and to maintain fair trading the rules will be enforced by the Council’s Trading Standards team and officers have the power to take civil enforcement action against traders who are found to breach the regulations.
“The rules also entitle customers to receive a refund of any unlawful surcharge they have paid and enable them, if necessary, to take legal action to recover any such surcharge.”
Any businesses who may still be unclear on the regulations, and who require advice and further information on the surcharge ban can visit www.gov.uk or call Cornwall Council’s Business Regulatory Support Team on 0300 1234 212
Consumers who are charged an additional fee for paying by credit or debit card should report the incident to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4 04 05 06