Minister calls for consumer protection over debit cards charges

An Australian minister has called for an intervention over changes to the fees charged to merchants for payments via debit cards.

New South Wales fair trading minister Anthony Roberts said he wrote to federal treasurer Wayne Swan after learning that fees for accepting EFTPOS payments would be increased by many banks.

Although he acknowledged that there will be no direct charge to consumers as a result of this restructuring, Mr Roberts believes that banks will pass the costs on to retailers and then shoppers will be charged more indirectly.

"Retailers, especially small business owners, will feel pressure to pass these costs onto consumers," he warned. "The last thing consumers need is to be charged when they spend their own money."

The minister added that if these changes to debit card payments are not checked, charges to use them could end up creeping up as they did with credit cards.

Earlier this month, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that there was a 0.1 per cent decline in spending on debit cards in June 2011, suggesting the country's people are saving rather than splashing out.