Credit card fee changes: The hidden impact on small businesses & consumers

Press release

Companies will no longer be able to charge fees for using credit cards, following the implementation of a new EU directive.

credit card

Since April 2013 traders have not been able to charge consumers fees that exceed the cost for using a particular method of payment. However, from 13 January 2018 companies will no longer be able to charge any fees for the use of credit or debit cards. This includes payment methods such as Apple Pay and PayPal, too. The change also applies to Government departments and local councils. So, for example, DVLA will no longer charge you a fee for paying by credit card when you renew your road tax.

(Be aware though, that although the Law covers the EU and therefore there should be no charges for credit card payments anywhere within it, the UK Government extended it to Paypal etc. So if using PayPal or similar then you will need to check with the country as to whether they also applied this extension.

Is this good news for consumers? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! thinks so. (That’s me that is).

She asks “Who isn’t annoyed when they have to pay a fee for paying for their car tax or to Ryanair for booking their flight?” Dewdney is emphatic that traders have had long enough to know this change has been coming to be able to plan and not pass increases in costs to consumers. “That goes for those Government departments, too, so there should certainly not be an increase in council tax fees and road tax to cover the supposed ‘loss’, thank you very much!”

She adds “Used wisely, many people pay by credit cards to defer payment and also to get cashback rewards!”

Scrapping the credit card payment charge on picture of card reader

However, not everyone welcomes the changes. David Taylor, who blogs at Thinking Thrifty and runs a café, fears that with no charge it’ll encourage card payments even further for really small amounts. He is considering not taking credit card payments any more, admitting that he will lose some custom “but if that custom is making me a loss, ironically, I can’t afford the custom anyway.”

The Federation of Small Businesses believes that David is not alone saying “many small firms will struggle to absorb the costs associated with card payments”.

Not all small businesses agree though:

Richard Allen of Reflections Detailing – a car restorer – has never charged a fee for using credit cards. He says “It’s just a cost of doing business and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty small cost. I didn’t know it was coming though. But actually it costs me more to handle cash in any case!” He notes that credit card transactions incur a fee of 2.389%, debit card transactions 0.495% and cash 2%. Every card transaction also has a 5p authorisation fee. No company ever charged for handling cash!”

Then there’s places like Just Each which had a 50p credit card  charge. They have had to scrap that and have introduced a 50p service charge for all transactions. Keep and eye out for those and come back here and tell us so we can have a rogue’s gallery!

The Taxman cometh
The HMRC has received criticism for abolishing credit card payments. A spokesperson for the HMRC said “We will no longer be accepting personal credit card payments from 13 January as new rules mean that we can no longer pass on what our bank charge for processing a credit card payment. It would be unfair to expect other taxpayers to pick up this cost. There are a range of ways for people to pay us depending on the type of tax being paid, including debit cards, Direct Debit, Faster Payment and BACS.”

Dewdney believes that people should put money aside as they earn it to pay their tax. “However”, she argues, “for some people less able to plan financially, or who suddenly find themselves in a difficult financial situation, the short notice (announced a few weeks before Christmas and nowhere on the HMRC website) will be very unhelpful.”

If you are struggling to pay your tax see Debt Camel’s 10 things you should know if you can’t pay your tax bill

Open banking changes
The arguments for and against the banning of charges are only part of the bigger picture. The ban comes in on the same day as the introduction of Open Banking which could potentially bring greater benefits for consumers.

Sara Williams is a Citizen’s Advice advisor and UK Money Blogger of the Year 2017 for Debt Camel, covering debt and credit ratings. She says that large retailers may try to bypass the current payment mechanisms and provide payment apps directly to customers. “Getting rid of charges for using cards will be generally good for consumers.” But she warns consumers to “Look out for side-effects. Card companies may reduce their charges to business and cash back credit cards may disappear as a result.”

Seen a business charging the fee?
Complain! Obviously! Write in the first instance claiming the fee back if you have already paid it. Use the Top 20 Tips for effective complaining. You can also report the company to Trading Standards and let us know about in the comments below too!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For more information, guidance, advice, tips and templates on complaining effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Plane greedy – Are airlines holding families to ransom?

Update 03 February 2018. The CAA is to investigate airlines and seating allocations. Interestingly you will see below that in August 2017 it told me that this wasn’t a problem. It seems to have changed its mind! Finally, after complaints from consumer groups and others it is to investigate the practice of charging for people to sit together.

Aeroplane in blue sky text - CAA to investigate airlines' charges

Many airlines introduced paying for seat reservations on flights some years ago. Airlines say this is because some customers want to ensure that they are near the loo, by a window, or in the middle if they get travel sick etc. Of course there’s also paying over the odds for legroom seats too! Remember when you could get them for free just by asking at the desk?!

Update 05/02/18 Travelled recently? Have your say on the CAA consultation regarding seating arrangements. The consultation is open for one month. The CAA has said that it depends on the number of responses it gets as to when the results will be published but it expects it to be late Summer/Autumn.

So, what are the legal rules about seat reservations?

EU Regulation (EU) 965/2012
This regulatation states that if a child travels with an accompanying adult in the same class of cabin, the child should be seated in the same seat row segment as the accompanying adult. Where this is not possible, the child should be seated no more than one seat row or aisle away.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is responsible for aviation rules and regulations in Europe and their document known as Annex IV (PART-OPS) says:
CAT.OP.MPA.165 Passenger seating
“The operator shall establish procedures to ensure that passengers are seated where, in the event that an emergency evacuation is required, they are able to assist and not hinder evacuation of the aircraft.”

Civil Aviation Authority guidance
The CAA states it has published guidance material for UK airlines explaining how to comply with the above rule, part of which says that family groups should be seated together.

“The seating of children close by their parents or guardians should be the aim of airline seat allocation procedures for family groups and large parties of children.
Young children and infants who are accompanied by adults should ideally be seated in the same seat row as the adult. Where this is not possible, children should be separated by no more than one seat row from accompanying adults. This is because the speed of an emergency evacuation may be affected by adults trying to reach their children.”

The CAA says it receives very few complaints relating to seating. A CAA spokesperson said

“On the whole we are satisfied that UK airlines comply with their obligations to seat family groups together. It is important though that passengers are made aware of rights during the booking process. Our advice to passengers is clear, family groups do not have to pay for reserved seating in order to guarantee they sit together. Airlines are obliged to sit children in the same seat row as an accompanying adult during the boarding process. Where that is not possible, (e.g. Boeing 737s or Airbus 320s, where cabins are configured into rows of three seats either side of the single aisle and more than three people are travelling together) the child should be no more than one seat row away under EU rules. The CAA works closely with UK airlines to ensure they understand this obligation.”

05/02/18 Asked for clarity on this change in view the CAA did not provide a comment.

So, how do major airlines compare when allocating seats for adults with children?

Airline Short haul from & up to long haul Reserving seats
BA £7 £20 Free to gold/silver members at booking, Bronze week before flying, anyone 24 hours before free allocation
Thomas Cook £10 £22 Free allocation at check-in
Thomson £9.50 £15.50 Free allocation to anyone 7 days before flying
Monarch £3 to £11 £11 Free to Vantage Club gold members incl. legroom, 24 hours before free allocation
Easyjet from £1.99 to £21.99 Free allocation at check in and to those with Flexi tickets & easyJet Plus cardholders)
Ryanair £8 or £13 or £15 1 adult must pay €4 so children get free reserved seat. Max. 4 children for each adult per booking get free seat reserved. Anyone free at 4 days 2 hrs before flying

Ryanair aeroplane over fields text CAA to investigate airline charges for you to sit with your party

British Airways
A spokesperson for BA said “We prioritise seating families travelling with children together, which we organise a few days before online check-in opens. We will always make sure than any child under 12 is seated with an adult from their group.”

Thomas Cook
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “We always give seating priority to families flying with children to make sure that at least one accompanying adult is always seated with a child. To guarantee the whole family is seated together, families have the option of paying for seat selection.”

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said “We always try to seat customers travelling together next to each other wherever possible, with priority given to families travelling with children. If a customer has chosen not to use the pre-booking service and, in very rare circumstances, their child is initially allocated a seat away from them it will be automatically re-assigned.”

A Monarch spokesperson said “Monarch will always try to sit families together and a child (2-15 years) will never be sat without an accompanying adult. During peak periods, it may be necessary to split groups/families, but a child will always be sat with an accompanying adult from the same group/family.”

An Easyjet spokesperson said “If passengers choose not to pay to select their seats our seating systems will always aim to seat families together when they check-in online. If a passenger does leave checking in until close to the time of departure and all of the seats have been allocated to other passengers, we will try to allocate as many of the family together as we can at the airport and if necessary will ask other passengers if they are prepared to move once they are onboard the plane.”

A Ryanair spokesperson said of the mandatory charge, introduced in October 2016:“This way adults can choose where to seat their children. This will also allow adults to check-in for their flight 60 days before departure. It will not be mandatory for any other adults or teenagers in the booking to reserve a seat; however they may choose to do so.”

Comparing Ryanair equality
Does Ryanair apply this policy to all parties that require individuals in need of care to be sat together? Where a reduced mobility passenger is travelling with an accompanying adult, Ryanair says it “…contacts them by email and do our best to ensure the accompanying passenger is seated next to them and allocate them a seat free of charge.”

Is Ryanair in breach of The Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, because adults with children are being charged where others without children are not, which is therefore discriminatory against those with dependants? Also, others in need of a carer are not charged.

Irish Aviation Authority
Ryanair comes under the jurisdiction of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). A spokesperson for the IAA said “If a child travels with an accompanying adult in the same class of cabin, the child should be seated in the same seat row segment as the accompanying adult. Where this is not possible, the child should be seated no more than one seat row or aisle away. All Irish airlines must comply with these requirements and the IAA monitors Irish airlines to ensure compliance.” Despite my requesting a response regarding Ryanair’s mandatory charging from the IAA Director of Safety Regulation Ralph James and CEO Eamonn Brennan and repeated requests to the Press Office and making a complaint using the IAA procedure, the IAA has declined to comment any further on repeating the line on the EU guidance and refuses point blank to comment on monitoring Ryanair’s practice and whether it will take any action on the possible breach of the EU guidelines and indeed the Equality Act.

Further confusion
The European Consumer Centre Ireland said that this matter wouldn’t fit under their remit and suggested contacting the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), as it is the national enforcement agency. But it too said it did not have any legal remit in the area. The European Consumer Centre UK said “This is an area that we would seldom advise on as the experts in this field would be the Civil Aviation Authority who has already provided a comment. It also recommended contacting the CAR.

So, there you have it, none of the organisations in Ireland responsible for overseeing airlines practices want to get involved in monitoring airlines seating children with their adults despite the equivalent in the UK doing so.

Ryanair flies into oblivion the latest fiasco regarding delays

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights various posts on laws, guidance, stories, templates etc.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For consumer rights, regulations, laws guidance, advice and template letters for complaining effectively for most situations GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!


Taking Control: understanding bailiff rights

I sometimes get asked about your rights where bailiffs are concerned. This is quite a specialist area and so I asked Alison Blackwood of StepChange to provide some guidance.

Here at StepChange Debt Charity we are still hearing from our clients about problems with the behaviour of bailiffs and bailiff firms. In fact we were so concerned at instances of bailiff not seeming to follow regulations and standards, that we are working with eight other charities on a campaign “Taking Control” that is calling for further bailiff reform.

But, reform is a long-term aim. What happens if you are visited by a bailiff now? First of all, bailiffs are not the same as debt collectors: a debt collector doesn’t have any special legal powers to collect a debt, whereas a bailiff does. If you are certain you are being contacted by a bailiff, it’s good to know what powers they have, so you understand what they can and can’t do.
A door, control: understanding bailiff rights

Before you get a knock at the door
Before any visit to your home takes place, bailiffs must send you a letter called a notice of enforcement. This will give you seven clear days’ warning before they visit. This means as long as the organisation you owe money to (the creditor) has your current address, you’ll get a warning before the first bailiff visit, and a chance to discuss repaying the amount owed.

If you are not the person named on the notice of enforcement, you should write to the creditor and the bailiff firm, stating that you are not the person named on the enforcement notice. The letters should be sent by recorded delivery and you should keep a copy, so you can prove you have done this if you receive further correspondence, or a visit, about the debt.

If the bailiff then still turns up and is shown your copy of letter and of recorded delivery, along with ID such as a rent bill, that should be sufficient to turn them away. Although we’ve had examples where this hasn’t worked and the case has had to be escalated through the bailiff complaints process – which is another maze-like range of options.

When and where
A bailiff can only visit you at home between 6am and 9pm. There are some exceptions if they’re calling at a business which opens at night, or if a court has given special permission, but this is rare.

Bailiffs can visit any property in England or Wales where you live, or run a business. If you’re self-employed they can visit your business address. But if you work for someone else they shouldn’t call at your workplace. However, if visiting your workplace would let your employer or colleagues know of the debt that would be a “mustn’t” as it breaches the Data Protection Act They can visit someone else’s property if your goods are stored there, but they need to ask the court for permission first.

They can also take any goods you’ve left on a public road, including your car. They can check the DVLA records to find out if you’re the registered owner of a car.

Do you have to let them in?
In most cases a bailiff can only come into your house peacefully through a front or back door. They can’t break in without giving you a chance to let them in voluntarily. This means they must:

• Explain who they are
• Say why they’re calling
• Enter only with your permission
• Enter without using force

For most types of debt, when bailiffs first visit, they’re not allowed to:

• Climb through a window
• Break down doors or use a locksmith
• Push past you or put their foot in the door to stop you closing it
• Enter the property when there’s only a child under 16 at home
• Lie about who they are or why they’re calling

There are some cases when a bailiff is allowed to use force to enter your house if you refuse to let them in. For example, to collect an unpaid magistrates’ court fine; if you are self-employed, to enter your business to collect unpaid county court or high court judgements; or if the bailiff has been given a court order allowing them to use reasonable force to collect HMRC debts, like income tax. However, in most cases they have to ask permission from a judge before they’re allowed to use force, and evidence from the courts shows that this happens very rarely.

What will a bailiff do when they visit?
If you’re not able to pay the debt straight away, a bailiff will look for items which could be taken away and sold. They will try to come into your home to do this, but remember in most cases they can’t force their way in if you refuse.

They’ll make a list of these goods. The goods are then under the bailiff’s ‘control’. It is illegal to sell or give away these controlled goods until you’ve paid off the debt in full.

Bailiffs can remove controlled goods straight away, but it’s much more common for them to leave the goods with you. They’ll draw up a payment arrangement with you called a controlled goods agreement – usually they’ll ask for a lump sum straight away and they may allow you to pay off the rest in instalments.

If you miss any payments under the controlled goods agreement, the bailiffs can come back and remove the controlled goods to sell them – they can use force, if necessary, to take your goods at this point.

What can bailiffs take into control?
A bailiff must leave you with essential goods, including:

• A cooker or microwave, a fridge and a washing machine
• A landline or mobile phone
• Beds and bedding
• A table and chairs
• Appliances to heat and light your house
• Medical or care equipment

Some goods are protected and can’t be taken by a bailiff, for example:

• Goods which are owned by someone else – but they can take goods which you own jointly with someone else
• Pets and assistance dogs
• Tools or other equipment that are essential for your job or study, up to a maximum total value of £1,350
• A vehicle used by a disabled person

The bailiff must discuss the needs of you and everyone else in your household, and reach agreement about which items should be classified as essential and which can’t be taken.

Find out more
The law on bailiffs is complicated. The StepChange and National Debtline websites give more information on how best to deal with bailiff action, depending upon the type of debt you have. You can also find a fact sheet on how to complain about a private bailiff which includes sample letters.

Remember, if you need help with debt or are worried about a bailiff visit, please seek free advice from an independent debt charity as soon as possible.

And, if you feel pressured by bailiffs, campaign for change
You can share your experience on the Taking Control website. All stories shared are anonymously and the only data stored is your parliamentary constituency, so we can more effectively lobby local MPs for reform.

Alison Blackwood has been the Senior Campaigns & Policy Advocate at StepChange Debt Charity since May 2016, and is responsible for the organisation’s campaigning and policy work on civil procedure and enforcement. Before that she worked as a Senior Campaigns Officer at Citizens Advice, Strategy & Improvement Manager at London Borough of Camden and Head of Policy & Knowledge at London Voluntary Service Council. Alison is an RSA Fellow and has been a trustee of various small London charities and Chair of a local community enterprise organisation, Communities in Focus.

Further help
How to stop a debt being sent to the bailiffs from DebtCamel


How to complain about a non/late delivery

Goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

If an item has been left and then stolen it is your responsibility if you provided details for a “safe place”. You are agreeing to it being safe! If there is a chance that it could be stolen don’t use it as a safe place! Common sense really! It has become your property as the retailer has left the item where you specified. You could possibly try and claim from your insurer.

However, if some fool has put it in a wheelie bin and it’s a bin day then the service has not been carried out with reasonable skill and care and you are entitled to a full refund.

A common mistake people make is to contact the courier and some retailers will try and fob you off and make you do this. However, your contract is with the trader, their contract is with the courier. Here is a template letter for when things go wrong with a delivery (put in your own information instead of the writing in bold).

Use “faithfully” when it is “Dear Sir/Madam” and “sincerely” where you know the name of the person to whom you are writing) and replace the bold with your information!

Dear xxx

Re: Item

On the date I ordered and paid in advance for item(s). It is now the date and I have not received it/them.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation  and  Additional  Charges) Regulations 2013 states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. The listing for this item stated that I would receive the item(s) by date. You are therefore in breach of contract and I am requesting a full refund.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 my contract is with you and not the courier.

I look forward to hearing from you within seven days. Should I not be fully satisfied with  your  response  I  will  not  hesitate  in  taking  the  matter  further  which  will include, but not be limited to, informing Trading Standards and if necessary starting proceedings through the Small Claims Court.

Yours sincerely/faithfully

More information about your rights regarding buying online and deliveries can be found in Your rights mail order, online and deliveries.

If you don’t get a satisfactory response from the company contact the CEO. You can find the contact details for any CEO on

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!



For more templates, advice,information and guidance about your rights and the laws there to protect you from faulty goods and poor service see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers


Telecoms and Energy – the worst sectors. Dreadful. I get asked a lot about how best to complain in these sectors. I have therefore provided the links you might need below.

If you have taken out a line rental, broadband or mobile contract since 23 January 2014 under new Ofcom rules you can cancel their contract penalty-free if a provider ups its monthly prices mid-term and didn’t warn you about the rise when you signed up.

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

First and most importantly Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively Telecom providers seem to make it difficult for you to email but read this post as to why it is important to write not ring.

All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong this was about the Vodafone fiasco with their billing system and provides advice about how to complain when your bill is wrong and provides other useful links.

How to complain about broadband speeds/service interruptions

Mis-sold a contract? How to get out of it 

How to end 3 problems with your mobile ‘phone (& get your money back)– Faulty phone, network coverage, mis sold contract

All you need to know about roaming charges – tips for before you go abroad and how to complain about charges

Vodafone fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws

EEnormous bills, Ofcom fine and how to complain about incorrect bills

Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing billing ex customers

It’s payback time for broken broadband – Ofcom proposals for guaranteed payback on service breaches

Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers and how to call them out on it and get redress

Tips for effective complaining

How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

Use to find the email address of the company CEO and write to him or her particularly if the company doesn’t provide an email address for you to write to customer services!

See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for similar on energy.


How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!  for more information advice, tips, consumer laws, rights, regulations, stories and template letters for complaining about the telecom and numerous other sectors.




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