Small print: which are the most annoying hidden charges?
Annoyed by hidden charges? I am. When I buy flights or tickets to concerts or football matches I expect to pay the advertised rate. But you never do. There’s always an ‘admin fee’, ‘booking charge’ or even ‘credit card surcharge’ added on top. It’s sneaky and misleading.
The good news is that soon you may be able to do something about it. The Law Commission has today recommended that companies which tuck away hidden charges in the small print should face being taken to court.
In the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts report, it says that British courts should be empowered to examine the fairness of hidden costs from the likes of budget airlines, estate agents and gyms.
The OFT has recently forced some gyms to make their membership schemes less restrictive, and last year it made a number of airlines agree to scrap debit card surcharging and absorb the costs into the price.
But it’s hardly scratched the surface of the trick of companies attracting customers in with low headline rates, only to hit unsuspecting consumers with, often, massive extra charges.
Price comparison sites are partly to blame. With millions of people now checking competitive prices before buying, traders advertise low headline rates to top the best-buy tables and attract people in. It’s only then that folk often discover the true costs after firms hit them with various other charges to ensure they make a decent profit.
I believe that the Law Commission’s proposals should be adopted as soon as possible so that fed-up consumers can take companies to court that mislead them with extra charges.
But it got me thinking about what really annoys about small print and hidden extras. I turned to Twitter to ask and got some interesting responses, with airline Ryanair being the most mentioned firm for annoying charges.
“Ryanair wins every time – the fee for paying with a credit card is insane,” said Carolina Parra.
“It’s hard to beat Ryanair,” said Money Fight Club, refering to the range of confusing extras. “When I was booking a flight for my student daughter I almost hired her a car. And she doesn’t drive!”
Mike Van Dulken mentioned the trick of people having to buy separate tickets for their outward journey and back. “Ryanair structure it to have no ‘return flights’. Their all one-ways, allowing it to charge a transaction cost on each flight and per person.”
In summer 2011 I reported that particular trick in Saturday’s Your Money. At the time I wrote: “Anyone booking through Ryanair will be charged £6 per person, per flight, for paying by debit or credit card. That means a family of four taking a return flight, would be charged an extra £48 per booking.”
Adam Smith bemoans the relatively recent trend for airlines to charge for luggage. “Who do we pay extra for checking in luggage! Who goes on holiday with no luggage?” Fair point! It would be clearer – and fairer – for airlines to include the charges in their headline prices.
Chris Burton says he refuses to fly Ryanair. “So my bane is concerts/shows that charge booking fees without any other way to book.”
That’s a very common complaint. Worst are the outfits which charge a transaction and delivery fee per ticket, so even if you order say, eight, to the same address, the extra charge can be £40 or so.
Andrew Hagger, who writes the weekly Money Insider column in Saturday’s Your Money, agrees: “I hate it when you get charged a booking fee per ticket for football or concerts even though it’s just one phone call/transaction – Ticketmaster are one of the worst,” he says.
Commenting on my Independent story today Peter Thomasson says: “Surely the answer to this is easy: A simple, blanket law that only allows advertisers to publish the standard, what you pay price and absolutely forbids them to charge more. Only conditions which reduce the price can be offered – airlines take note!”
Sounds a reasonable suggestion. Meanwhile, what other hidden charges or small print extras annoy you?Tagged in: hidden charges, Ryanair, small print, surcharge, Ticketmaster
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