3 December 2015
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has welcomed new legislation introduced by the Federal Government today that will finally lead to the end of excessive card payment surcharges.
"Right now some of Australia's largest businesses are charging their customers an absurd amount to pay by credit card. Today the Federal Government has introduced new legislation that will eliminate excessive surcharges, like the high fees airlines slug their customers with every time they book a flight," says Matt Levey, CHOICE director of campaigns and communications.
"This new legislation will ban excessive surcharging once and for all. It gives power to a national regulator, the ACCC, to enforce the ban and issue real financial penalties if companies don't play by the rules. Up until now, we've had Reserve Bank rules, but no-one enforcing them, and the free-for-all has continued. That will now change.
"Best of all, the new legislation is flexible. It should capture all excessive surcharges, even if a business calls it something else like a 'booking fee’ or ‘convenience fee'. If it looks like a surcharge, it should be captured under the new law.
"Companies doing the wrong thing have a few months to clean up their act before this new law is in place. For example, the average fee for a business to process a Mastercard or Visa is less than 1%, but we see surcharges many times in excess of that. This law will bring those sky-high charges crashing back down to earth," Mr Levey says.
The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015 was introduced into the House of Representatives this morning and should be finalised by early 2016. The legislation allows companies to surcharge but requires that charges reflect rules set by the Reserve Bank, which require surcharges to accurately reflect the costs businesses face to accept a card payment.
Alongside of this new legislation, the Reserve Bank has proposed a new surcharge standard that will force banks to give businesses clear information about their costs, making surcharge levels easy to determine for businesses and easy for a regulator to assess.