Companies will be banned from applying “hidden” credit and debit card surcharges to push up the price of flights, concert tickets and other goods.

The Government has signalled it will put a stop to the controversial practice by the end of 2012 following a call by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The OFT had said the fees, often added in the final stages of a transaction, should be blocked for debit cards – but the ban will also extend to credit cards.

Most retail sectors will be covered and businesses will still be able to add a small but not excessive charge to cover the cost of a payment method.


Credit cardsIt was estimated debit card surcharges were adding £265,000 a day to the cost of flights

Treasury minister Mark Hoban said consumers should be able to see “up front” how much they will have to pay.

“We want consumers to be able to shop around,” he said.

“They have a right to understand the charges they may incur up front and not be hit through a hidden last-minute payment surcharge.”


A European Union ban on businesses including airlines from imposing above-cost surcharges was due to come into force in mid-2014.

But Mr Hoban said the Government was keen to act sooner, saying it was “leading the way in Europe by stopping this practice”.

Consumer champion Which? submitted a ‘super-complaint’ backed by tens of thousands of supporters to the OFT earlier this year.

It claimed debit card surcharges were adding £265,000 a day to the cost of flights.

The OFT found considerable evidence of companies using “drip pricing” practices for surcharges online – adding payment charges to the total price only after consumers have filled in a number of web pages to make their purchase.


Debit Card Surcharges

:: EasyJet – £8 per person

:: Ryanair – £6 per person

:: DVLA – £2.50 per person

:: Actual cost to retailer – 20p


Source: Which?

eRetail Growth

Which? finance editor James Daley, who sits on the Sky News Money Panel and has repeatedly called for the changes, welcomed the news but added a note of caution.

“Given that the new regulations won’t come into force for a year, we’d like to see airlines doing the right thing and scrapping charges for paying by debit card immediately,” he told Sky News Online.

“Our fear, however, is that some airlines will wait until the very last minute to make these changes – and some may even increase their charges further in the meantime.

“Since we launched our super-complaint last year, a handful of airlines have already increased their fees for paying by card – or even introduced these charges for the first time.

“We hope that doesn’t happen again now. It’s time for airlines to realise that the game is up for these kind of charges, and they now need to be ready to move to a more transparent pricing system.”