Card surcharges must catch loophole dodgers like Ryanair

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Consumer Affairs Minister Edward Davey says the planned card surcharge ban will need careful drafting to catch companies like Ryanair, and stop them exploiting loopholes.

However, even with all the care in the world, the plan has little chance of success.

Ryanair charges
Following an OFT ruling that credit and debit card charges were unfair, the government has apparently been weighing up how to outlaw them effectively. At the Lib Dem Conference, Davey was reported by The Sunday Express voicing his concerns over the attitude of companies like Ryanair towards the impending changes.

At the moment, Ryanair charges £6 extra each way for anyone using either of these cards. It will only let you buy online for free if you use a Ryanair-branded pre-paid MasterCard. It has softened its stance slightly recently, announcing that those who pay with debt cards will avoid the charge, and only credit card customers will have to pay.

It means that those who buy their tickets by credit card in order to take advantage of the additional protection it gives them, will pay handsomely for the privilege.

However, the way the fee is structured may mean Ryanair can get around the new rules if it chooses to do so. It calls it an 'administration charge'. Instead of saying it is levied on credit card users, it says those who use other types of cards can avoid the administration charge. It is therefore denying that this is a surcharge, which could - in theory - help it get around any new laws on surcharges.

Davey's point was to ensure any drafting of new laws banning surcharges stopped any company from dreaming up this kind of loophole. He said: "There is a danger if we don't get this right that people like Ryanair will try to find loopholes. If we are going to achieve for consumers, we have to make sure we implement things in a way that does not allow that sort of dodgy practice to happen."

Good luck to them.

If there's one thing that has become clear from clampdowns like this in the past, it's that companies don't take this sort of thing lying down. If we cut off access to an outrageous charge that has been netting them a small fortune, they simply introduce another charge and tell us it's not their fault, it's a necessity now the government has cut off a revenue stream.

And companies like Ryanair are no strangers to coming up with new ways to charge their customers.

But what do you think? Is this a victory for the consumer, or a long-running battle that no-one can win? Let us know in the comments.

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