Sunday 17 December 2017

Know your rights: A surcharge for using a credit card

A surcharge for using a credit card and confusion over the CE mark and quality of goods. What are your rights? Our expert has the answers...

Dermott Jewell
Dermott Jewell

Dermott Jewell

Q: Dear Dermott, I would appreciate a clarification regarding surcharges being added, notably by travel companies, when choosing to pay by credit card.

When paying last week for an upcoming trip I handed over the credit card and was immediately informed that using it would incur an extra 2% on top of the already hefty bill. That was €85 extra for absolutely nothing, Dermott!

This is why I write, because a friend has told me that this breaks EU law. I am well prepared to go back and argue but I need the detail and would appreciate your help with that. Greg

A: Hello Greg, I'm delighted you raised this issue, as, for me, it is a prime example of one of the worst add-ons from retail that exists in Ireland. There are, of course, costs associated with doing business. However, what is happening here is that the percentage of sales that the credit card company takes - the cost to the business - is being passed on directly to the consumer and, too often, with a little added for good measure.

This is why the top-ups for your mobile phone, leap card and anything else you can think of, come with little add-ons of between 20 and 50 cent per €10 transaction.

Retailers, not content with the commission/profit they receive from the providers, add more on to the cost for you and I to bear.

With regard to EU law - yes indeed, your friend is correct - it does exist!

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive of 2005 outlawed the practice of charging consumers more for using different methods of payment. That Directive was brought into effect in Ireland through the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

BUT - the two sections on Payment Methods were not implemented in Ireland.

Three guesses why not, Greg!

Q: Hi Dermott, We have been buying toys for our children over the years and we find a lot of them to be of really poor quality. It's the same with quite a number of other items we have had over the years like chargers, earphones and so on.

I have discussed this with friends and they all agree.

One thing that is common to them is that they have a CE marking which was explained to me just last week to be a guarantee of quality.

If that is the case then can I return these items under consumer law or is this separate? I am totally confused. Jerry

A: Thanks, Jerry! This has been a great week as two of the most annoying issues for consumers, ever, have come back to haunt.

The CE Label is not a quality mark and it is misleading and confusing to consumers. This is a manufacturer's marking to confirm that the product complies with European manufacturing legislation. It is not a mark of safety or of quality but is for compliance with customs and market surveillance authorities.

CE could well be considered to represent Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware! So, if it's no use, bring it back, Jerry.


Dermott Jewell is a consumer rights expert and the Policy and Council Adviser at the Consumers' Association of Ireland. If you have a consumer-related query you'd like Dermott to help you with, get in touch at

Irish Independent

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