Australians say goodbye to excessive debit and credit card surcharging

By Kelly Emmerton ·

From 1 September 2016, excessive surcharges on card payments are set to become a thing of the past at large retailers, in an effort to cut back on the $1.6 billion Aussies are paying in surcharges every year.

The new Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Act 2016, which will be introduced from today for large retailers, and on 1 September 2017 for all Aussie retailers, is designed to eliminate the excessive surcharges Aussie shoppers are paying on credit and debit card purchases.

It will mean that big businesses will only legally be able to pass on the “true cost” of processing the card transaction, rather than stacking a profit on top.

With the use of card over cash increasing and contactless payment technology on the rise, being able to use their credit or debit card without penalty is becoming more and more important to Aussie shoppers.

In fact, one in three consumers said that whether or not a business surcharges was extremely important to their impression of it, and almost 75% will recommend friends and family avoid a business because of surcharges.

That’s why some groups, such as the consumer advocacy collective Surcharge Free, think the new legislation doesn’t go far enough, and that surcharges should be scrapped entirely.

“Research is telling us that the cost of accepting card payments is reducing for businesses over time and in this competitive world it just makes sense to provide your customers with the best possible customer service,” said Surcharge Free spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“Surcharges are not a cost passed onto consumers in many other parts of the world, so why should Australians be expected to pay them?”

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Research from the group also found that 93% of Aussies agreed that all surcharges should be removed and over 90% said not being surcharged was important to ensuring their repeat business.

“Come September 1, we’re calling on businesses across Australia to join the Surcharge Free movement and focus on the goodwill not surcharging creates with customers. Ask yourselves – why would you put your return business at risk?” Zinn said.

“Customers couldn't be clearer - surcharging is an unwelcome sting in the tail of any purchase.”

While surcharging being scaled back is great news for consumers, according to Mozo's Kirsty Lamont there are still other ways consumers can be stung.

"Whether it's paying a high annual fee on your credit card or a monthly bank account fee for access to that debit card, it's important to ensure you're not only avoiding the bite of charges whilst out and about, but from your actual card provider too,” she said.

If you'd like a better credit card deal, visit Mozo's credit card comparison tool to compare the best value cards on offer from 58 providers.