Jayesh Patel wanted to know if he could continue to charge customers if they used debit/credit cards or mobile apps when paying for their purchases in the new year. He said a lot of people use a card when buying fags or just a can of drink at his store, Classic News in Northampton. The bank charges him 60p per transaction. “Would we be breaking the law by charging our customers from January 2018?” he asked.
Afraid so, Jayesh. It is now illegal to charge for such transactions. While he was pondering what to do to recoup the cost, I asked around on the Booker symbols closed Facebook site and got more than a dozen responses: some retailers have free-to-use, self-fill ATMs with the two-fold benefit of lower bank charges and no excuse for customers not having cash. Quite a few will be taking cash only, particularly on Lotto, PayPoint, Oyster and so on, and setting a minimum level (£3-£5) of purchase before accepting cards. Others mentioned negotiating a better deal with banks. Some never charge anyway, so no change there, pardon pun.
The government, of course, is currying favour with the public, saying that “rip-off charges have no place in modern Britain”. (It was, however, following an EU Directive.) Newspapers saw a headline opportunity. To quote The Sun: “SCHEMING high-street retailers are planning to dodge a government crackdown on ‘rip-off’ credit card fees by hiking their prices on the sly”.
But many retailers who responded to my question agreed with each other that this is, once again, a bad law for small businesses.