The Federal Court has ordered CLA Trading Pty Ltd (trading as Europcar) to pay $350,000 in penalties for charging excessive credit and debit card payment surcharges in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Eurpocar admitted that, between July and August 2017, Europcar charged Visa and MasterCard credit users fees that were higher than Europcar’s costs to accept payments from those credit cards.
It also admitted that, between July and 5 November 2017, the company had charged excessive surcharges on Visa and MasterCard debit cards.
“Europcar imposed excessive surcharges on transactions affecting 63,012 customers, and over-charged more than $67,000,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“As a large and sophisticated business, Europcar was well aware of its obligations to comply with the law prohibiting excessive surcharges.”
“Europcar also knew its actual cost to accept payments by these cards from at least July 2017, when it was notified by its bank. Despite this, Europcar continued to impose excessive surcharges,” Mr Keogh said.
The amount of each excessive surcharge charged by Eurpocar was relatively small, at an average of just over $1 per customer.
“While the amount per customer was small, Europcar imposed these charges on thousands of consumer transactions which quickly added up to a considerable amount,” Mr Keogh said.
“This decision is a warning to businesses that choose to impose surcharges. The onus is on them to get it right. A failure to comply with these laws may result in significant penalties.”
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Europcar in July 2018 for breaches of the excessive surcharging laws. Europcar subsequently admitted liability, and the ACCC and Europcar made joint submissions to the Federal Court that Europcar should be ordered to pay a penalty of $350,000 and a proportion of the ACCC’s legal costs.
Europcar reviewed its surcharging practices to ensure its compliance with the excessive surcharging laws from 6 November 2017 onwards.
Europcar also provided refunds to the majority of customers that it identified as having been charged excessive surcharges between July and November 2017. ■