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Consumer law: Debit card surcharges total £18m in just two months

Despite the Office of Fair Trading upholding the super-complaint lodged by Which? in June, the Government has yet to take any action to prevent vendors charging extortionate debit card surcharges.

The worst offenders are airline companies, and Which? has calculated that since June until now, customers purchasing airline tickets have paid out an extra £18 million in debit card surcharges.

Companies such as Swiss Air, Lufthansa and easyJet all charge for payments made by debit cards. Fees can be anything from £4.50 to £8 per payment and often these fees are kept hidden until the very end of the purchasing process. Although, easyJet and Ryanair have renamed their surcharges as 'booking fees'.

The actual cost to a vendor for using debit cards is just 20p and with credit cards, it is no more than 2% of the value of the transaction.

The executive director of Which? Richard Lloyd believes that a simple amendment to the law, specifically article 52 (3) of the Payment Services Regulation, would make sure that debit card surcharges would only lawful if they met OFT guidelines.

Mr Lloyd said: "With most airlines yet to drop these card surcharges and some introducing new fees, it's time for the Government to put a stop to this.

"A minor change to the law is all it would take to ban the charges on debit cards that you only find out about at the end of a lengthy online booking process.

"Thousands of people have complained to Which? that these hidden card fees are unfair. The Government must act so that consumers can easily compare the cost of their flights."

Not only airlines are guilty of racking up debit card fees, but they can also be found on the Trainline, Eurostar, Addison Lee and some London cab companies.

You can usually avoid debit card surcharges if you pay with an Electron card and sometimes with prepaid cards.

But if you want to show your support for scrapping surcharges completely, go to the Which? website to register.

Related links:
Read more on the story (Guardian)
The difference between debit cards and credit cards (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)