Airlines Flybe and Loganair have been criticised for “ripping off” islanders by charging a flat £5 transaction fee for using a credit card to book flights.
New regulations came into force this year designed to prevent traders from charging more than it costs them to process such payments.
Consumer rights body Which? estimates that processing credit card payments costs traders around two per cent of the value of a given transaction.
However, booking a single Flybe flight with a value of, say, £50, would attract the flat £5 charge if a credit card is used. According to Which? figures, that would be around five times the actual cost to Flybe/Loganair.
Although an airline spokeswoman claimed Which? had given it a “clean bill of health”, a spokesman for the consumer rights body said it appeared Flybe was not complying with the rules.
“We hope all companies abide by the surcharge ban,” the spokesman said. “Customers using their credit card on smaller purchases will rightly feel hard done by if they are charged a high flat rate fee rather than a percentage of their transaction.
“Trading Standards or the regulators should crack down on any company [that] is breaking the rules.”
ZetTrans chairman Allan Wishart said he would be taking up the issue with the airline.
“I am very disappointed by Flybe’s charges for card transactions,” he said, “which seem to hit Shetland particularly hard given the already high cost of air travel to and from the islands.
“Whether or not it is legislation or guidelines that apply, ZetTrans will look into this and, in any case, take it up with Flybe.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said that if Flybe and Loganair are not abiding by the spirit, as well as the letter, of the new rules then regulators must act to tighten the system.
“We pay enough to fly without being charged additional amounts to use our credit card to pay for the flight,” Mr Scott said.
“I also think there’s a reputational issue for the airlines on this – it’s in their interests to not be seen to be ripping off the customer. If they are getting around it in some way, clearly the regulations must be tightened.”
When Flybe won the franchise in 2008, it imposed charges for using debit cards as well as credit cards – before backing down following public criticism and a campaign and petition from this newspaper.
Regulations brought in by the UK government on payment surcharges states: “A trader must not charge consumers, in respect of the use of a given means of payment, fees that exceed the cost borne by the trader for the use of that means.”
A Loganair spokeswoman insisted the set-up was “fully compliant” with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) regulations.
“Prior to the publication of the recent Which? report, Flybe, Loganair’s franchise partner, worked closely with the Which? team, sharing costs being incurred and payment structure alignment, resulting in Flybe being given a clean bill of health by the consumer watchdog.”
However, Flybe’s website states that a minimum charge of £5 applies “regardless of the number of passengers or sectors in the booking”. That is something Which? says the new regulations were supposed to prevent.