Opinion: Know your rights around credit card fees

by Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction

The holiday season is a time of cheer and being generous with the loved ones in our lives. For many households, a big part of the Christmas season is showing our appreciation and affection to our family and friends through the sharing of gifts.

About 80 per cent of payments for retail goods and services are made with credit cards, and the Christmas season is the busiest time of year for most retailers.

Shoppers should keep in mind that merchants are now allowed to charge customers a fee of up 2.4 per cent for some credit card fees as a result of a recent court ruling.

These fees are called interchange fees, which retailers pay to credit card companies for processing the transactions. Previously, most credit card agreements did not allow merchants to pass along that fee to the customer, forcing retailers to absorb the cost.

Christmas shoppers are already under extra pressure this year, due to the inflation crisis. The question of whether that special gift for Grandma comes with a credit card surcharge is just another potential burden on already stretched budgets.

Frankly, for consumers, this could not have come at a worse time.

I have directed my staff at Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction to assess options that will benefit both merchants and consumers, and I will have more to report on what Alberta’s government can do on this issue soon. In the meantime, we are monitoring the impacts of the recent court decision.

I encourage everyone, retailers and shoppers, to understand their rights and responsibilities under Alberta’s Consumer Protection Act.

While the Act does not forbid these fees from being passed on to the consumer, credit card fees must be accurately disclosed to the card user and on any bill or invoice.

Keep in mind, if you pay by method other than credit card, such as cash or debit card, the surcharge cannot be added to your bill. If merchants only accept payment by credit card, then credit card fees must be included in any advertised or posted prices.

For merchants, surcharging requirements may very between credit card companies, but in general, credit card providers require the surcharge applied to a customer to be no more than the cost applied by the credit card company. Merchants should consult with their credit card company to make sure they understand the rules of their agreement.

To find out more about consumer protection, go to alberta.ca/consumer-protection or call 1-877-427-4088.

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