Excessive credit card surcharge ban now applies to all businesses

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From September 1, all Australian businesses will be banned from slugging customers with excessive surcharges for using EFTPOS and credit cards to pay for purchases.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the ban, which has been in effect for large businesses since last September, will extend to all businesses that are either based in Australia or use an Australian bank.

Here are some guidelines of how the new rule works.

  • If the business applies a surcharge, it can only charge the actual cost of processing the credit card payment for Eftpos, MasterCard, Visa, or American Express.
  • If the processing cost is calculated as a percentage of the purchase price, then a surcharge can also be the percentage.
  • You can also set a fixed surcharge (rather than a percentage) so long as it accurately reflects the actual cost of the transaction.
  • If you want to set a single surcharge for all payment methods, you have to use the lowest cost surcharge, you can’t use an average.
  • If you don’t comply with the rules, you can face spot fines or court penalties with maximums in excess of $1 million.
  • It’s up to a business whether it wants to absorb credit card processing fees into its prices, or apply a surcharge.

ACCC not ‘trying to make life hard’ for small businesses

If the ACCC has reasonable grounds to believe that a business has breached the ban, it can issue an infringement notice or take court action against the business, seeking pecuniary penalties.

“Obviously our priority is not making life hard for the average small business in this country that is just trying to do the right thing,” Dr Schaper said.

“But, where we see examples of either really widespread or systemic or deliberate attempts to charge more, and a business that should know what it should be charging, then I think we’ll be taking this a lot more seriously.”

The competition regulator said businesses should have received merchant statements from their financial institutions in July, setting out their cost of acceptance for each payment method.

Payment types not covered by the ban include American Express cards issued directly by American Express, BPAY, PayPal, Diners Club cards and cheques.

So, not naming any names, but to the coffee shop around the corner that charged us a $0.50 surcharge on a $4 coffee, you’d better start cleaning up your crema.





Mark Harley, Principal

+61 7 3188 0200