Europcar Fined $350k For Excessive Card Surcharges
The Federal Court has ordered 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.
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Europcar in July 2019 for breaches of the excessive surcharging laws.
Europcar was found to have imposed excessive surcharges on transaction affecting 63,012 customers and over-charged more than $67,000.
Europcar admitted that, between July and August 2017, it charged Visa and MasterCard credit users fees that were higher than its costs to accept payments from those credit cards.
It also admitted that, between July and November 2017, the company had charged excessive surcharges on Visa and MasterCard debit cards.
In light of the accusations, 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 was well aware of its obligations to comply with the law prohibiting excessive surcharges,” said Mick Keogh, ACCC deputy chair.
“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.”
The investigation found that the amount of each excessive surcharge charged by Europcar was relatively small – an average of just over $1 per customer.
According to the ACCC, while the amount was small, Europcar did impose them on thousands of consumer transactions, which quickly added to a considerable amount.
“This decision is a warning to businesses that choose to impose surcharges – the onus is on them to get it right,” Keogh continued.
“A failure to comply with these laws may result in significant penalties.”
Europcar has since reviewed its surcharging practices to ensure its compliance with the excessive surcharging laws from November 6, 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.
“We have accepted a penalty of $350,000 as part of the settlement with the ACCC in recognition of the limitations in our rental system during this period,” Europcar said in an official statement.
“The company has fully cooperated with the ACCC since it commenced its investigation in October 2017. At every step we have sought to be open and transparent with the ACCC to identify and correct this issue and to ensure the best possible outcome for all of our customers and provide the high-quality service they can rely on.”