Dear LH, I recently paid for my son's impounded vehicle to be released early over the phone. When I called, they quoted $914 and the lady sent a receipt for this amount. However, I was later sent an email stating that they charged me a 3% surcharge for using my credit card. I was not informed or asked about the surcharge otherwise I would have paid cash on pick up. Who do I complain to as they are not interested. Thanks, Ripped Off
Payment terminal picture from Shutterstock
So you were originally quoted $914.00 and then charged $941.42? We can understand your frustration. The specific amount makes it even more annoying — $27 is enough to really sting but arguably not worth the time and effort of pursuing. With that said, you should still take them to task over this purely on principle.
It's entirely legal for Australian businesses to add a surcharge when customers opt to use a credit card. Banks charge them a fee for credit card transactions, so it's not unreasonable for them to pass this expense onto the customer. However, they are only permitted to recover "reasonable costs" and they are certainly supposed to inform the customer first.
Here's what the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has to say on the matter of credit card surcharges (emphasis ours):
Businesses can choose whether or not to pass on the cost of accepting credit card payments to their customers. However, if you decide to impose a credit card fee, you must ensure your customers are aware — before they enter into the transaction or contract — that a fee will apply and the amount of the fee.
The fact that you were dealing with a police department doesn't excuse this oversight in the slightest; they need to follow consumer laws just like a regular merchant. You should absolutely report this to the relevant consumer protection agency. You can find contact information for each state and territory here. Good luck!
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