Visa and American Express Crack Down on Surcharges in Australia

american-express and visa credit cards crack down on surcharges in australia

Visa and American Express have come together to restrict surcharges for payments in Australia under new Reserve Bank regulations – potentially saving consumers $350 million (AUS) a year.

The new regulation would require retailers to limit their surcharges to what it "reasonably costs" them to accept their cards.

Currently, card surcharges in Australia can be as high as 10 per cent in taxis or stores, with many making use of the surcharge as a way of pocketing extra money on each purchase.

Now the Reserve Bank's new rule has come into play, the previously unregulated surcharge will now be brought in line as card providers can now negotiate surcharges with individual store merchants.

Visa have already rolled out their new model, which requires merchants to disclose their surcharge before a sale is completed – thus allowing the customer to avoid being stung by high fees.

Currently, Visa and MasterCard charge 0.87 per cent on each transaction, with AmEx charging a slightly higher 1.84 per cent.

Head of consumer group Choice's campaigns, Matt Levey – who has been advocating the regulation change – said: "The proof now will be on whether some of the highest surcharges – particularly the airlines and taxi industry – start to reduce their fees as a result of these changes.

"We are optimistic but it remains to be seen how soon [others act] and whether some merchants try and get around this by applying surcharges under another name."

A Cabcharge spokesman said the company wouldn't be lowering its excessive 10 per cent surcharge, instead claiming that it was a "service fee" that falls outside the new regulations.

A spokesperson from Tyro Payments, an independent eftpos provider, said that more than 36 per cent of Australian businesses impose some type of surcharge on a customer's bill – meaning that 64 per cent actually do the right thing when it comes to accepting payments.

Businesses who refuse to comply will face warnings, fines and possible termination under the new legislation.

Do you think that this is a good move for Australian business?

Will it help generate more credit card purchases in the country?

Do you think it's all a little bit heavy handed in its execution?

Let us know you thoughts on these matters and more by leaving a comment below.

 

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Comments

  1. Bob Skattum

    If merchants (regardless of locale) take the approach that they will try to make the surcharge a “profit booster”, then the card schemes/organizations have to be able to make sure that the amount added is not more than what they charge them. Since interchange is very defined and capped in AUS due to government regulation, violations and egregious overcharges are easier to spot. The real question is whether or not the penalties will be enforced and levied. If not, or if done haphazardly, then it is a hollow threat.

    1. Author
      Vaughn

      Indeed Bob, it’s got to be enforced the whole way through – something that I doubt they’ll be able to do as it is. Maybe this reform will help boost that side of the regulatory system.

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