The retail industry should be applauded. When it comes to rip-off Britain it could be argued that other sectors are far more at fault and they should be looking to multi-channel retailers for best practice in keeping consumers happy.
In March of this year Which? wrote a report highlighting the worst offenders at the hidden charges/excessive fees game, which irritates customers so much. They are pressing the OFT to look at the whole issue and not before time because is there a single person in the whole country who has not fumed at some point as they have to swallow an outrageous charge just for using a card to pay.
The obvious miscreants are airlines – most notoriously RyanAir. The Irish airline has introduced a pre-paid credit card which allows the customer to reclaim the fees – most notably the £6 per person administration fee it charges on all flights - but they just cannot help themselves.
Customers are not really waived the fee, they merely receive a voucher equal to the same amount which can only be redeemed on future bookings with RyanAir. And it costs £6 to buy such a card. Customers also incur an inactivity fee of £2.50 if they don’t use it enough. And there are charges of £2 for all withdrawals at ATMs. It doesn’t sound so good now does it?
Extra charges. What extra charges.
The other consumer bugbear is ticket agencies and theatres/cinemas. It’s almost impossible to buy a ticket for an event where it only costs you the actual cover price of the ticket. If you phone you get charged an administration fee, if you book online you get charged a fee. Which channel do they want consumers to use?
I am fully expecting to walk into a theatre box office one day and be charged a central London congestion fee for the privilege. Scandalously it is also not at all uncommon to be charged not one overall transaction fee but a fee for each ticket purchased. Presumably that’s £1.25 for each time the ticket agency employee pressed the ‘print’ button.
But amazingly people keep paying it – probably because they feel they have no option.
Most people do accept that there is a charge to use a credit card because they are dimly aware that the banks charge the providers quite a bit for using it but charges on debit cards are really infuriating.
And there are more and more charges relating to such cards. Another Which? report showed that buying foreign currency was full of examples of debit card charging. Quite often the customers own bank is doing the charging.
The good news is that the OFT ruled earlier in the summer that debit card charges at least must be curtailed. The complaints centred on claims that the cost of handling a debit card was no more than 20p per transaction and that retailers such as supermarkets and department stores absorbed the cost without question. The OFT agreed.
In the meantime, give three cheers for the retail saints like Amazon who charge no postage, and the retailers that offer Click & Collect who put no hidden charges on doing business with them.