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Consumers benefit with new surcharge rules

AAP logoAAP 31/08/2016 Lisa Robinson

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.

Regulations announced four months ago by the Reserve Bank come into force on Thursday, 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 will 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 prepaid) and American Express cards issued by Australian banks.

Mr Sims said some event ticketing companies were intending to change their pricing practices so that customers will 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.

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