Supermarket chain ALDI has been taken to task for not making the charges associated with using credit cards and tap and go payments clear enough for customers. Whatever supermarket you favour, it’s a reminder that you shouldn’t automatically assume any payment mechanism is free of charges.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) investigated ALDI over concerns that it did not make its charges clear. ALDI imposes a 0.5% surcharge for customers who use a credit card. It also imposes the same surcharge for any customer who uses a ‘tap and go’ card, even if a debit card rather than a credit card is used.
Neither approach is illegal, but customers must be clearly made aware that they apply. In ASIC’s investigation, that didn’t always happen.
An ASIC review of signage in a select number of ALDI supermarkets found that the 0.5% credit card surcharge was disclosed in some stores by a sign above the registers and, in others, by a sticker at the registers. In two stores, there were no signs or stickers.
For credit card payments where a PIN or signature is used, disclosure of the 0.5% surcharge is made on the credit card terminal screen after customers insert or swipe their card to pay for their purchase. ASIC considered that this was too late, particularly in stores where there was no other disclosure.
ALDI has undertaken to improve signage and educate checkout staff over the fees that apply, so they can warn customers.
While EFTPOS payments from debit cards are generally free, there are exceptions, as this case demonstrates. Woolworths controversially stopped accepting debit credit cards in 2010 before eventually reversing the policy. Some bank accounts also limit the number of fee-free EFTPOS transactions.
So the simple rule? Know what your card allows, and check what the store allows.