Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology
New standards on how much businesses can surcharge their customers for credit or debit card purchases start in September. However, it’s not clear how the rules will be policed and whether this will lead to all businesses enforcing a surcharge, rather than just those who choose to.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has revised the regulations, aiming to limit the amount merchants can surcharge customers for paying by credit or debit cards. The new rules will initially apply to large merchants, defined as those employing over 50 staff, as these businesses are seen to be overcharging the most.
Businesses have been able to add on surcharges to these type of purchases in Australia since January 2003. This was part of RBA regulatory interventions in the first place, as it originally allowed merchants to surcharge in order to recover the costs of accepting card payments. The surcharges can be ad valorem (in proportion to the value of the transaction) or a fixed dollar amount.
A current example is that taxi fares using a Cabcharge terminal, whether they be paid by charge, credit or debit card, are surcharged at the same ad valorem level of 5%, as a processing fee. Not all the goods and services suppliers who accept card payments chose to impose surcharges on their customers, but a significant and seemingly ever increasing of them do surcharge.
Steve Worthington is a Visiting Professor at the Business Research Institute