After a super complaint lodged by consumers’ advocacy, ‘Which?’, government is cracking down on last minute internet fees that are well hidden during the transaction and only appear on the final screen after consumers have provided their debit or credit card information. Although the biggest offenders are the airlines, many other online vendors target consumers in the same way.
According to Treasury Minister, Mark Hoban, the UK government is in the midst of legislation which will prevent these unsavoury transactions which cost consumers as much as £300 million annually in internet surcharges. These details were made evident after Which? made its complaint to the OFT. Treasury now is working to prevent what they call “excessive surcharges” on transactions made with debit and/or credit cards. Even though it is recognised that airlines are indeed the worst culprits, the entire retail sector is being brought to task for this practice.
These findings which were published in the Guardian mention two of the UK’s largest cut-price airline companies, Ryanair and easyJet, where hidden final stage charges range from £6 to £8 on booking fees. While it is true that debit cards cost merchants less than credit card transactions, fees are still considered to be excessive and as of late 2012 these charges must be made clear earlier in the online booking process.
The Treasury minister also states that government would like to give consumers the ability to shop around and as a result it is their right to a clear understanding of what surcharges and fees will be attached to an online purchase before the final stage. He further finds that the UK is well ahead of Europe in taking action to stop this unscrupulous practice because the Treasury truly is committed to consumers’ rights and helping them get good deals in these times of financial hardships.
Although legislation will not be in effect until later next year, it is his hope that online merchants and retailers at all levels will take a closer look at their own surcharges long before then. Government wants better disclosure today rather than waiting until next year.