Move puts end to excessive card charges

Emily AceSouth Western Times

South West card users will no longer feel the pinch at the cash register after the Federal Government banned excessive surcharging for all businesses from last Friday.

The extension of the ban to all businesses follows the move applying to big businesses from September 1 last year.

Smaller businesses were granted extra time to prepare for the ban and must now restrict any card payment charge to the reasonable cost of acceptance of the payment.

Business South West chief executive officer Fiona Fitzgerald said it was “about time” for the move.

“A lot of businesses in Bunbury aren’t even doing it, but then others are charging a whole extra 50c or extra $1,” she said.

“They are the ones that are going to have to pull their prices into line.”

Mrs Fitzgerald said consumer education was an additional benefit of the changes.

“The good thing about this is that people are being educated about those real costs – so if someone says it is an extra 50c, you can go well hang on, its not, its only about 4c,” she said.

“If you want to compete with others you don’t make a profit from your credit card charges, it’s not the done thing.”

Forrest MHR Nola Marino said the ban would give the South West community “confidence” that card surcharges reflected the true cost of the transaction.

“As the South West gets set for the footy finals people can purchase tickets and airfares free of inflated card payment surcharge hits,” she said.

“This is practical action from the Turnbull Government and delivers immediate results.”

Consumer Protection South West region coordinator Annetta Bellingeri said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner had new powers to enforce the ban and would investigate complaints.

“The ACCC can issue surcharge information notices and these will require a business to provide evidence of their costs of processing a payment, in comparison to the surcharges they are applying, in order to determine whether or not their surcharges exceed the permitted level,” she said.

“If the ACCC has reasonable grounds to believe that a business has breached the ban, they can issue an infringement notice or take court action against the business, seeking pecuniary penalties.”

Miss Bellingeri said businesses can now only pass on the cost of processing a payment, such as bank fees and terminal costs.

“For example, if your cost of acceptance for Visa Credit is one per cent you can only surcharge one per cent on Visa credit card payments onto your customers,” she said.

Customers who find themselves hit with an excessive surcharge when they go to the shops, buy tickets online or book a holiday should contact the ACCC on 1300 302 502.

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