On 13th January 2018 charging extra for anyone using a credit or debit card, or electronic payment services, was banned in the UK.
This will mean an end to the extra cost added on at the end of the process of buying something online or in a shop. Examples of these transactions include buying flights or concert tickets or being hit with a surcharge when using a card in a small shop.
The fear following the ban is that businesses may increase their prices and consumers also have questions over how it will be policed. Businesses still face the cost of accepting cards, although it is cheaper than it used to be, and this will most likely be reflected in their headline price. The upside to this is that it will make it easier for consumers to compare total prices when looking for the cheapest deal.
There is a concern that new 'administration charges' or 'service charges' will fill the void left by surcharges. One example of this comes from the takeaway food app 'Just Eat', they have introduced a 50p service charge on all of their orders. Previously it levied a 50p surcharge on debit and credit card payments. Money experts say it is wrong to rebrand credit card fees as a service charge. Just Eat commented that they had already been considering changes to its charges, but that "the change to legislation did play a part in prompting the review".
Under the old rules that came in to affect in 2012, companies should have only charged the customer what it costs them to process a debit or credit card payment - they shouldn't have made a profit on these surcharges. However, this led to some grey areas, was poorly policed and, at times, ignored. Consumers could still face charges, with fees typically around 2% and on some smaller transactions accounting for as much as 20% of the bill.
Trading standards officers will be tasked with policing the new system to ensure businesses do not find a way around the ban on surcharges.
Consumer Minister Jo Swinson says: "The practice of excessive payment surcharges has been ripping off consumers for far too long.
"Consumers are fed up of thinking they will be paying a certain price for goods, only to find out towards the end of the process that the final price is much higher.
"I am delighted that the ban will stop retailers from cashing in by charging add-on fees that simply do not reflect the real cost of processing the payment."