Credit cards brush with NCC

Customers who claim against their credit card companies when goods and services they bought are faulty or sub-standard are routinely being brushed aside and told to claim against the retailer, according to the National Consumer Council, the UK's official consumer watchdog.

It wants the Office of Fair Trading to reinforce the existing rules on joint and several liability which give the consumer equal right of redress against the credit card company and the supplier of the goods and services.

"At the moment, claimants are fobbed off unless they can quote the law and have the support of a consumer adviser," the NCC said yesterday in response to a Department of Trade Industry consultation document.

The NCC also wants to make sure that consumers are aware that they have an equal right of claim and has called on the OFT to ensure that credit card companies accept their responsibility to meet the full bill for claims, not just the amount paid by card.

The Credit Card Research Group, which represents virtually all the companies issuing Mastercard and Visa cards in the UK, yesterday rejected the suggestion that it ignores widespread claims for faulty goods and sub-standard services.

It argues that 95 per cent of the 20,000 claims its members receive in an average year involve cases where the supplier has gone bankrupt, and the credit card company assumes liability.

Typically these are items such as holidays, furniture, computers and mail-order goods for which consumers pay in advance and await delivery.

In the remaining cases, the CGRG agrees card companies will suggest that the first port of call should be the supplier of the goods. It also claims to have the agreement of the Office of Fair Trading and the Consumer Association that this is a logical way of proceeding.

However, the NCC says its evidence has come from trading standards officers and Citizens Advice bureaux. They believe that in many cases consumers are told to pursue the supplier through to the courts in an attempt to get justice, and are not reminded that under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act they have an equal right to claim against the card company.

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