With more and more sales taking place online, people are increasingly finding that cash is becoming an archaic concept. In fact companies anticipate that clients will want to pay via a credit or debit card, therefore businesses from family corner shops to multinational chains are making this process as easy as possible.

However, this new era of ‘plastic money’ has resulted in some companies imposing charges on customers. A small credit card surcharge to cover any costs incurred would be a little more understandable, but not only have some businesses been adding disproportionately large sums to credit card payments, they have also been punishing clients for using debit cards.

The practice has become so widespread – and so unpopular – that the British government has stepped in to ban airlines from hitting customers with hidden charges. While many companies have been guilty of this, low-budget airlines have been judged the worst offenders, with EasyJet and Ryanair coming in for particular criticism. While a typical credit card transaction can cost 30 cents to process, charges of 14€ and more are being passed on to passengers.

UK Treasury Minister, Mark Hoban, stated that, “Britons are sick of being ripped off by these hidden charges. We’re leading the way in Europe by stopping this practice. Consumers are sick of the rip-off culture and we are determined to do what we can to end it.”

Legislation to end these hidden charges will be in place in the UK by the end of 2012, while it will be banned in the EU from 2014.

This issue has come to a head over the past few months, since the charges have risen steeply in recent months and the practice has spread, leading unsuspecting shoppers to incur additional charges for everyday transactions like utility bills and cinema tickets. Faced with a growing tidal wave of complaints from disgruntled citizens, the UK government has had no choice but to step in and move to end the constant over-charging.

With payment by debit and credit card becoming increasingly frequent it will be a relief to EU citizens to learn that they will be afforded at least some protection from corporate greed.

Article written by Perez Legal Group of Marbella, who provide a complete personalised legal, tax and management service to both foreign citizens and companies in Spain.