Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Card Sharps in Jersey

The Telegraph reported that:

“Since last Saturday [13 January 2018], all surcharges for paying via a credit or debit card were banned. The ban applies to all payments for any goods and services, but such charges were particularly common in the travel industry - you’d find them on the payment pages for everything from airport parking to airline booking sites and package holiday remittances, often adding two per cent or more to the cost of paying with particular cards.”

“The change - required by an EU directive - was brought in as an attempt to reduce prices for consumers and prevent companies from profiteering and penalising those who wished to pay by card.”

“There are one or two complications - you can still be charged a general booking or administration fee, but it mustn’t be linked to the way you are making your payment”

I can think of three areas where charges apply. When you pay in the car park by Castle Quay, there is an extra charge if you pay by card, which does not apply if you pay by cash. And if you choose to pay your rates bill electronically (online or at the Parish Hall), there is a fee for a credit card, but not one for a debit card. And if you pay tax by credit card, that gets an extra fee.

As far as I can see, all could fall foul of the EU directive, if it applied in Jersey because the charge applies based on payment method.

On the new EU directive in Jersey, Helier Clement, writing in the JEP, had some rather sharp comments:

“Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly when it comes to one of that lot in the Big House, its implementation seems to have caught Murray Norton – he’s the assistant minister for Economic Development with special responsibility for consumer affairs – totally unawares. When asked if (or when) the ban would apply here, he indicated that not only would it not, but that he was unable to say when it might take effect.”

“Deputy Norton described the ban on imposing the surcharge as having complicated and varied rules and added that there was ‘more to these rules than meets the eye, which is why we want to consider all the options’. However, the Deputy did not explain why our elected representatives and/or their highly experienced (we are constantly reminded) hired help had not considered the options he referred during the months between the EU’s announcement of intention and the ban taking effect. It remains to be seen how long it takes avaricious businesses to realise that the rules don’t apply here and that, therefore, they can continue ripping off their customers at will.”

So what is happening elsewhere in the Crown Dependencies? I have not managed to find what Guernsey has decided to do, but the Isle of Man managed to get its act together last year:

Back in October 2017, he Office of Fair Trading issued this statement:

“The OFT has been in discussion with both the Treasury and the Cabinet Office regarding the implications of this change and the advisability that it should be extended to the island, as, if it is not extended, consumers on the island may be disadvantaged within the complex consumer landscape.”

OFT chairman Martyn Perkins admitted the timescale was ’tight’ to implement changes at the same time as the UK. But he said it was ’achievable’

And this year, they announced that “"ith effect from 13th January 2018, traders on the Island will not be able to apply additional surcharges for payments made by card. That’s the reminder from the Office of Fair Trading.”

And it was achievable!:

It was passed back in 2017:

“In December 2017 Tynwald approved the OFT’s proposal to follow the United Kingdom’s lead and introduce a prohibition on surcharges for consumer payments made by credit and debit card. This prohibition applies to any business trading with customers in the Island or anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA).”

OFT Chairman Martyn Perkins MHK explained

“Whilst the UK regulations are not directly applicable to the Island, they will indirectly impact on local businesses trading into the UK or EEA and on local consumers buying goods online. This would leave a very confusing situation and risks our consumers being placed at a disadvantage compared to their UK counterparts. The OFT has made an Order applying similar regulations to the Island.”

Martyn Perkins concluded ‘A key role of the OFT is to protect consumers and it is important to close the loophole which would disadvantage local consumers.”

The Isle of Man is a model of how to pre-emptively investigate these matters, and decide what to do, and get on and get it done.

Martyn Perkins, bringing the legislation says: “The Office of Fair Trading believes it is important to give local consumers, and other consumers using Isle of Man services, the same level of protection as in the UK and the rest of Europe. This is about fairness and transparency”

In Jersey, all we have is dither: The Department was “considering a number of policy options at this time”.

They were considering those way back on 17th October on the Isle of Man:

“While it is envisaged the Office of Fair Trading will be seeking political approval to introduce measures providing a level of protection to consumers on the Island similar to that enjoyed by their counterparts in the United Kingdom, I must emphasise that the implications of doing so are still being actively considered.”

And the reason for the measure, which was passed, gave details of the implications, and options considered. Reason for the Measure:

“The scope of the regulations in the UK and the other EU Member States is such that many transactions undertaken by Manx traders or Manx consumers will already (without this Order) be subject to the prohibition on card surcharges. The Order closes a loophole which would allow, in some cases, local consumers to be placed in a disadvantaged position. It is anticipated that in general there will be an adjustment of prices to reflect the increased cost to traders to do business; and without this Order some local consumers will potentially face both the increased price and a card surcharge.”

And all we have in Jersey is dither, vagueness, and the sort of political blather which would make Jim Hacker MP of “Yes Minister” fame look competent.

Not much fairness or transparency!

1 comment:

James said...

And the reason for the dither? Look who the beneficiaries are - the Waterfront (States surrogate), the rotten parishes (States surrogate) and the tax office (States).