26 September 2023

Diners’ distress: The shock of hidden charges

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The Commissioner for Consumer Protection is urging people to beware of extra fees or charges being added to a purchase before the checkout — or tacked on to the receipt after paying.

Trish Blake says hidden fees may come in a number of disguises, so it was important to know what to look for and understand your rights.

“Pre-selected extras are becoming more common as food delivery apps and self-service QR codes in restaurants replace ordering in-person, or when events and flights are booked online,” Ms Blake said.

“These apps and websites can be set to automatically charge a tip or for other extras, unless the customer removes these options before paying.”

She said under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), businesses were allowed to add pre-selected tips and optional charges to a bill — but only if the additional prices were disclosed at the beginning of the purchasing process.

“To avoid accidentally leaving a tip, or being stung for other add-ons, it’s important to keep an eye out for any preselected extras included in the total price and deselect anything that’s not wanted before making payment,” Ms Blake said.

“If you are misled into paying an optional charge, then raise this with the business and request a pro-rata refund to the value of that added charge.”

She said another common issue was payment surcharges for using credit, debit or EFTPOS cards, rather than cash.

“Card surcharges are permitted under the ACL. However, the fee must only reflect what it actually costs the business to process the payment, such as bank fees or terminal costs,” Ms Blake said.

“Should a business not accept cash — or fail to provide another way for consumers to pay without incurring a surcharge — the fee must then be included in the total cost.”

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