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Rip-off credit card fees challenged by new EU law - 2011-06-29

The European Parliament has approved new consumer rights that will spell the end of rip-off credit card fees.

The new Consumer Rights Directive, adopted by MEPs on Thursday 23 June, includes specific provisions to outlaw the practice of adding credit or debit card payment fees that bear no relation to the actual costs incurred when processing the transaction.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Labour's European spokesperson on consumer affairs Catherine Stihler MEP said: "In most cases it costs just a few pence to process a credit card transaction, yet some companies are ripping their customers off.

"It's not uncommon for people to pay 10 times the actual cost of processing their credit card transaction, and in some cases people are paying far more. This is daylight robbery.

"It is completely misleading for consumers and damaging for the more respectable businesses that are up front about their real prices."

The issue is so serious that consumer body Which? took out a "super complaint" against the practice, with the Office of Fair Trading agreeing on Tuesday 28 June to challenge unfair fees.

Responding to that news Catherine Stihler MEP, said:

"I welcome today's decision by the OFT that makes clear exorbitant card charges are unfair. Consumer laws agreed by the European Parliament last week make it clear that unfair surcharges for all means of payment must be made illegal in the UK before 2014.

"It is one thing to pass a genuine additional cost on to the consumer, it is quite another to use surcharges and fees as a means of making additional cash by misleading consumers."

Catherine Stihler has called on the British government to ban the fees now rather than wait for the EU laws to come into force in 2014. She added:

"Companies have already started to improve their ways, having seen that the writing is on the wall for these rip-off fees.

"But we need to end this practice for good so the government shouldn't wait for the EU law to come into force. It should act now and ban outlandish credit card charges once and for all."

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