Letter to the Editor: Creeping introduction of surcharges

DEAR News Of The Area,

WHEN I hear people complain about the cost of living crisis I wonder how many of them take note of the surcharges charged by some businesses?

Electronic transactions are convenient, as demonstrated by our usage, and are the cheapest form of transaction.

Cheques are prohibitively expensive which is one of the reasons they are being phased out.

Similarly, cash is expensive to operate but we tend not to see this cost as it is recouped through general bank charges and the difference between the interest rates that banks charge and what they pay.

However, for a consumer, there has been a creeping introduction of surcharges for using electronic payments.

To spend $10.00 with a card at a typical newsagent will cost you $10.32, which is a 3.2 percent surcharge. The only way to avoid this surcharge is to pay cash.

According to ABC analysis of Reserve Bank data, card surcharges are costing Australians over $960 million per year.

The ACCC states that surcharges are allowed as long as they “not … more than what it costs the business to use that payment type”.

Also, “If there is no way for a consumer to pay without paying a surcharge, the business must include the surcharge in the displayed price“.

This may be hard for a newsagent who is selling a magazine that is labelled as $10.00 but there is no excuse, or need, for a cafe to charge a surcharge on a cup of coffee.

Most often, retailers use surcharges for small purchase items.

However, I have seen a motorcycle shop that applied a surcharge on transactions more than $500!

I found that quite discombobulating.

One cause of all these surcharges is that merchants are charged directly for their point of sale terminals, but are not charged directly for the use of cash.

Perhaps if merchants were charged directly for the cost of cash they would change their behaviour.

Would the public tolerate a situation where it was cash transactions for which a surcharge applied?

There is no legal reason for a company not to do this.

In the meantime, I will act to avoid these extra taxes.

I will use a card, or my phone, for transactions that do not impose a surcharge, and use cash for buying the newspaper (while they still exist).

Basically, a business must, by law, include a payment option that does not include a surcharge.

When buying an airline ticket online this usually means using BPay.

Doing so will save you the price of a cup of coffee in an airport!

Peter SOBEY,

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