Travel Bulletin

Issues and trends

- Spokespers­on, Europcar

At first glance a hefty $350,000 in penalties levied on car rental firm Europcar in relation to excessive credit card surcharges would seem to be pretty tough. Last month the Australian Competitio­n and Consumer Commission hailed the Federal Court ruling, which related to a two month period in mid-2017 during which Visa and Mastercard users who rented vehicles from Europcar were overcharge­d by an average of just over $1 per customer.

A total of 63,012 clients were impacted, meaning the overchargi­ng amounted to about $67,000 – less than one fifth of the whopping fine imposed. ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said “As a large and sophistica­ted business, Europcar was well aware of its obligation­s to comply with the law prohibitin­g excessive surcharges”. The ACCC said Europcar had imposed credit card fees of up to 1.43%, exceeding what it was legally permitted to charge customers by between 0.17 and 0.62 percentage points.

For its part, Europcar noted that the overchargi­ng was unintentio­nal and had related to a “system limitation” which delayed the implementa­tion of the government’s new rules relating to credit card fees, which were introduced from 1 September 2016 for large businesses, and a year later for other companies. “At every step we have sought to be open and transparen­t with the ACCC to identify and correct this issue and to ensure the best possible outcome for our customers and provide the high quality service they can rely on,” a spokespers­on told travelbull­etin. The company had since fully refunded the amounts overcharge­d, he confirmed.

The heavy fine certainly makes an example of Europcar – and that is likely what the ACCC intended. “This decision is a warning to businesses that choose to impose surcharges... the onus is on them to get it right,” Keogh concluded.

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