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Communication of Credit Card Surcharges Under Scrutiny

Communication of Credit Card Surcharges Under Scrutiny

Credit card surcharges are once again in the spotlight with a new Government study of 3000 retailers underway to determine the scale of the issue.

The study comes on the back of nationwide research by Auckland PR firm Impact PR which found that nine out of ten Kiwis would move suppliers if their regular store introduced a surcharge of 3% and that most consumers felt surcharges were poorly communicated to them.

Impact PR's Mark Devlin says the businesses coming under the most scrutiny are those where the flat rate surcharge exceeds 3%. These include airlines and council run parking meters where additional charges could be in the region of 10-25%.

Devlin says that their research shows it was not just the surcharge itself that was likely to bring ramifications for the merchant, but how transparently it was communicated.

"We found that 88% of Kiwis believed that credit card surcharges are not made clear to them prior to purchase," says Devlin.

"Kiwi shoppers are not used to getting surprises when we make a payment. Unlike many overseas markets where sales tax may be added at the point of purchase, our legislation has long upheld that GST must be included in the price quoted on the shelf and we have an inherent expectation of no surprises," he says.

Devlin says often the surcharge "fine print" is so small it's hard to spot or worse, not displayed at all. There is also often a noticeable variance in the amount of the surcharge depending on the store and what type of credit card was used, he says.

"As significant an issue this is for us as local shoppers, it has also broader repercussions for our international reputation with tourists. The last thing New Zealand needs from a brand image perspective is to develop a reputation for adding unexpected charges which could be seen as covert or exploitative of visitors."

Devlin says since the introduction of credit card surcharges in the USA in just weeks ago, ten states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas have so far introduced legislation to ban them - and 11 more are expected to follow.

"New Zealanders need to consider whether regulation on how surcharges are communicated is required - this will once again ensure a degree of certainty at the point of purchase for both New Zealanders and visitors to this country," he says.

"Consumers should not have to hunt near the till for details of a possible surcharge when they enter a store, at the very least it should be displayed clearly on the shelf under the item," says Devlin.

For more information on the Impact PR survey visit


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