Surcharging No Longer Gets a Wink and a Nod

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

Consumers over the year have grown accustomed to seeing a “$10 minimum purchase” sign tacked on wall at small, local merchants like dry cleaners or bodegas. However, with credit card surcharges in the news because of the multi-billion dollar settlement between the card networks and certain merchants winding its way through the courts, confusion is bound to be exploited. In this example, a California gas station chain charges customers an extra $0.35 to use their debit card.

From Credit Union Times:

“In an effort to balance the customer’s need for convenience and value, PayQuick terminals are available on our islands,” ARCO wrote. “PayQuick is an easy way for customers to pay for their gas using cash, debit cards, PumpPass or GasPRO Plus Cards. There is a 35-cent processing fee for debit cards only, in addition to any fees your bank may charge for this service. For all other transactions there are no additional fees. This allows our customers the flexibility of using a debit card.”

There’s no doubt this practice is against regulatory and card network rules. But as this article points out, in certain tight margin retail categories, merchants are taking advantage of the dynamics around card payment regulations and as a result, consumers may be paying more than their fair share. This situation illustrates to the overall market the negative implications of surcharging. Surcharges are very difficult to police and are fulcrums for potentially egregious practices that add little value to industry.

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