We’ve been getting concerned at the amount of cases of excessive surcharging for card payments, and so, ahead of the last General Election in 2010 we called for Government action on this.
We agreed with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)’s conclusions that, as surcharges are often only revealed at the end of a transaction process, it can be very difficult for consumers to compare prices in advance (across competing retailers) and the surcharges themselves often considerably exceed retailers’ payment processing costs. We believe that improving the transparency of total costs, by ensuring information on surcharges is provided in a clear and timely manner, would help consumers compare products, avoid surcharges and encourage retailers to reduce optional surcharges.
We recognise that there are costs that businesses incur for accepting payments, but the vast majority don’t surcharge the customer for paying with a particular form of payment and it is unfair to consumers to cover these costs that can be seen to be misleading. We are urging the Government to act on the recommendations of the OFT and introduce legislation to prevent excessive surcharging in future. It is disappointing that not all of the retailers who use these practices have chosen to voluntarily accept and respond to the decisions of the OFT. We would urge the OFT to use their existing powers to ensure that consumers are protected from unfair practices by those retailers that continue to excessively surcharge.