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New card fee rules benefit consumers

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Large businesses now face hefty fines for slugging customers with excessive fees for credit and debit card payments, with many airline travellers among those saving money under new rules.

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Regulations announced four months ago by the Reserve Bank come into force today, limiting surcharges on card transactions to the amount it costs a business to process the payment.

That means an end to the fixed fees imposed by merchants, including some ticketing companies and airlines.

The consumer watchdog, in charge of enforcing the rules, is encouraging consumers to report any breaches.

“We will be enforcing these new rules from today, and the ACCC encourages all large businesses that haven’t already, to ensure their payment charging methods are in line with the new law,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said.

Qantas and Virgin Australia, which before September 1 charged $7 and $7.70, respectively, per person per domestic booking, will now charge credit card users 1.3 per cent of the purchase price, capped at $11.

That means anyone booking a Qantas flight that costs less than $538, or $592 for Virgin Australia, will pay less for using their credit card than they previously did.

Debit card users will be even better off, paying 0.6 per cent of the purchase price.

Jetstar said the majority of its customers would pay less in fees than they currently do, as it drops its $8.50 booking fee for domestic flights in favour of a 1.06 per cent charge for credit card users and 0.48 for debit cards.

The new law covers EFTPOS, Visa and Mastercard (credit, debit and pre-paid) and American Express cards issued by Australian banks.

Sims said some event ticketing companies were intending to change their pricing practices so that customers would no longer be charged for fees based on the payment method chosen.

Smaller businesses have until September 2017 to comply with the new standard.

The consumer watchdog says businesses can still charge booking fees or service fees.

What is the new rule?

Businesses can only pass on what it costs to process a customer’s payment. The RBA’s guide is around 0.5 per cent for debit cards, 1.0-1.5 per cent for most credit cards and 2.0-3.0 per cent for American Express cards.

What does it mean for customers?

Customers will no longer be hit with a fixed fee for buying items such as domestic flights.

What cards are covered?

It covers payments made with EFTPOS (debit and prepaid), Mastercard (debit, credit and prepaid), Visa (debit, credit and prepaid) and American Express cards issued by Australian banks.

Who does the rule cover?

From September 1, the law applies to large businesses with two of the following: gross revenue of $25 million or more, gross assets worth $12.5 million or more, or 50 or more employees. The rule comes into effect on September 1, 2017, for smaller businesses.

What to do if you think you are unfairly charged?

The ACCC will enforce the rules and is encouraging consumers to report breaches.

-AAP

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