'Banned' airline card charges cost £265,000 a day

getting card out of walletGetty

When is a ban not a ban? When it has been proposed by the Office of Fair Trading. More than a month after the OFT said airlines shouldn't be able to impose excessive charges for using debit and credit cards, Which? has found that airlines are charging the equivalent of £100 million a year.

So what's going on?

Inaction
Which? submitted a super-complaint to the OFT in March 2011, asking it to investigate excessive credit and debit card surcharges. On 28th June, the OFT proposed that charges for paying by debit card should be banned.

In the interim, nothing has happened. The government has done nothing to stop the use of these fees, and in fact Swiss and Lufthansa have announced plans for brand new charges for credit and debit card users.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director says:"With most airlines yet to drop these card surcharges and some introducing new fees, it's time for the Government to put a stop to this. A minor change to the law is all it would take to ban the charges on debit cards that you only find out about at the end of a lengthy on-line booking process." The change he's talking about is to the Payment Services Regulation, which is already in force in the UK, and could be amended to control surcharges.

However, there are no signs that the government is even considering this.

What can be done?
If the government doesn't act, the OFT is going to have to go to the High Court to get its ban implemented. It threatened to do so yesterday, and it looks like it's the only realistic option.

Many of the airlines have clearly failed to do the decent thing, and many are still robustly defending their position. When asked about its charges, Ryanair, for example, just stuck with the line that it's free if you use the right prepaid card.

Meanwhile the government is far too tied up with the latest unfolding dramas to look ahead to simple changes that would make life fairer.

Instead it's up to the OFT to drag the whole thing through court, costing yet more money and introducing more delays before we can finally book a plane ticket without a massive and unfair surprise at the end.

But what do you think? Whose job is it to sort this out, and why is no-one stepping up to the plate? Let us know in the comments.

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