Our guide to protecting your pocket from pricing scams

Over the past six weeks we have highlighted six retail areas blighted by hidden charges. This is what we found, and this is what you can do about them:

Holidays

UK travel companies are adding hidden extras to flight and holiday prices, in direct contravention of the rules on advertising. We found a holiday which the company offering it said cost as little as £39 but which actually cost £105. Phil Evans, principal policy adviser at the Consumers' Association, advises avoiding package holidays altogether. "Unbundle it yourself. Do your own research and you can often book it cheaper. IoS readers are internet savvy, and the vast majority of holidays you can organise yourself."

Car rental

Transaction fees, insurance waivers, credit card charges, an array of surprise penalties. Car rental is a byword for hidden charges that can catch out even the most astute customer. One IoS reader reported that he was charged £20 simply for the pleasure of picking the car up. "There's a hell of a lot of small print with car rental," says Mr Evans. "So, try to examine it in advance when you have time. Avoid disputes over the condition of the car when you return it by photographing the vehicle to prove that you have not put any dents in it. Sean O'Grady, motoring editor of The Independent, says that arguing the price at the end of the transaction has always resulted in a reduction.

Banks

Banks have a knack of imposing an array of hidden charges. This often creates further problems: punitive fees for an accidental overdraft can add up to £80 a month. When choosing a financial product check when penalties start kicking in. Shop around for the best rates and lowest charges, using a website such as moneysupermarket.com. If you are taking out a personal loan, opt for one that doesn't charge a penalty if you repay the money early. And with mortgages, ask for your money back if a lender charges a penalty for not buying their buildings insurance.

Mobile phones

Mobile phone companies benefit from the complexity surrounding the myriad deals and tariffs available. Mr Evans's first rule is: do your research before you sign up for a mobile. "Don't be lured by some offer of 2p a minute. And don't walk in to a store and expect impartial advice. Get your information in advance. Look at brochures, and check websites. Also think about how you are going to use your phone. If it's to keep in touch with a small number of people, try and be on the same network. Don't be dazzled by functions you are not going to use." Beware also of the cost of using your mobile abroad.

Theatre booking fees

Booking agencies say they are providing a "service" and need to recoup their costs. But even booking over the internet - ie, doing all the work yourself - provided no escape from this hidden charge. One way of avoiding paying more than the face value of the ticket is to book it in person. But some shows have no in-person booking facility. There's no such thing as shopping around. If there's a show you want to see, then that's the show you'll book for. "We feel this is one for the regulators," says Mr Evans. "The Office of Fair Trading needs to look at this." Complain to the OFT and complain to your MP, Mr Evans adds. "Objections from the public can only help."

Restaurants

We highlighted a scam perpetrated by many restaurants - the practice of including a 10 or 12.5 per cent service charge on your bill and then inviting you to fill in an empty "gratuity" box on your credit card slip. "A complete no-no," says Mr Evans. This still doesn't address the problem of service that is included. Remember: you don't have to pay it. If you think the service wasn't up to scratch, you definitely shouldn't. "Subtract it from the total," says Mr Evans.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
books
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Fay Weldon suggested authors should tailor their work for Kindle readers
books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers