Government sets out plans for measures to end hidden charges

 

New consumer rights measures are to be introduced to stop customers being ripped off by extra charges.

The Government is setting out plans to help ensure that costs and contract details are clearly set out, so that consumers have all the information they need before spending their money.

Under the new measures, customer service helplines will not be able to charge above the basic rate for calls.

Consumers will also have to "opt in" to agree to make any additional payments on top of the price for the product itself - meaning that companies will not be allowed to use pre-ticked boxes on booking forms.

Fees charged for a particular method of payment are also set to be cut, signalling an end to credit card surcharges.

The plans are part of the European Consumer Rights Directive. A consultation on how to implement them is being launched on Monday.

Consumer Affairs Minister Norman Lamb said: "This is an area where Europe can make a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Many people will have been ripped off at some point by hidden online charges while booking a holiday, premium rate helplines when returning a purchase or disproportionate and often unexpected charges for paying with credit or debit cards.

"The Consumer Rights Directive will put an end to certain bad business practices and help consumers make well-informed decisions when buying products or services.

"It will also boost business confidence, setting out clearer rules and responsibilities and cutting red tape by reducing compliance costs."

The proposals also cover the information to be given to a consumer before they buy products on the internet, and the cancellation rights they have after purchase. There will also be clarification on deadlines for deliveries of products and who is responsible if there is a problem.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Protecting consumers from hidden online charges, cracking down on rip-off premium rate customer helplines and improving delivery services are actions Which? welcomes.

"Strengthening consumer rights is better for businesses and benefits the economy. However, we're surprised the consultation to ban excessive debit and credit card surcharges has still not been published.

"More than 50,000 people supported our campaign, so we hope the Government sticks to their promise to ban these charges by the end of the year."

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