Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers Pty Ltd (Lloyds) has paid penalties totalling $37,800 after the ACCC issued three infringement notices for alleged breaches of the excessive payment surcharges law.
From September 2017 to March 2018, Lloyds charged customers a 2.25% surcharge when making credit or debit card payments online for auction items purchased.
The ACCC considered these surcharges were excessive because they were higher than Lloyds’ cost of processing those payments by as much as 1.43%.
The ACCC’s infringement notices were issued in relation to payments made using a MasterCard credit, a MasterCard debit and a Visa debit card during the six month period, each of which incurred the surcharge of 2.25%.
“We were particularly concerned because, due to the high value of the auction items sold, some customers paid hundreds of dollars more in surcharges than the cost to Lloyds of processing those payments. The infringement notices we issued specifically related to payments where customers were over-charged between about $30 and $350 more than it cost Lloyds to process the payments,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
Under the excessive payment surcharges law, businesses must not charge customers more than what it costs them to accept a payment method.
“For example, if it costs a business 1% to process a payment when a customer uses a Visa or MasterCard credit card, then the most the customer can be surcharged is 1%,” Mr Keogh said.
“The excessive payment surcharges law has applied to all businesses for more than a year now, and to large businesses since September 2016. Businesses have had more than enough time to get it right.”
The ACCC encourages all businesses to review their merchant statements to ensure they are not over charging their customers for making card payments.
Consumers who think businesses are unfairly overcharging them should raise it with the business or contact the ACCC.
“The ACCC continues to investigate complaints about businesses imposing excessive surcharges. Businesses are warned that if they impose excessive payment surcharges on their customers, they risk ACCC action,” Mr Keogh said.
Lloyds conducts online and traditional (in-person) auctions across a broad range of product categories.
The ACCC has published information to assist businesses with their responsibilities to comply with the excessive payment surcharging laws.
This is the fifth time the ACCC has taken action against a trader for imposing excessive payment surcharges. The ACCC filed proceedings against Europcar in July 2018 and Infringement notices were issued against RedBalloon in November 2017, Cruisin Motorhomes in July 2018 and Fitness First in September 2018.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).
Infringement notices can be issued where the ACCC has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has breached the excessive surcharge prohibition in the CCA. Each infringement notice relates to a one alleged contravention of the prohibition.
In February 2016, the CCA was amended to insert Part IVC, which deals with payment surcharges. The rules for determining permitted surcharges are set out in Reserve Bank of Australia Standard No. 3 of 2016, published on 26 May 2016.
These provisions banning excessive surcharging for card payments came into effect for all businesses on 1 September 2017 and applied to large businesses from 1 September 2016.