ACCC takes action against Europcar

The ACCC is taking Europcar to the Federal Court, alleging the company charged excessive credit and debit card payment surcharges in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

The ACCC’s proceedings only relate to outlets which are owned and operated by Europcar and not those run by franchisees. In Australia, 96 out of 126 Europcar outlets are owned and operated by Europcar.

CLA Trading Pty Ltd (trading as Europcar) faces claims that customers who used Visa or MasterCard credit cards during July and August 2017, and Visa or MasterCard debit cards between July and 5 November 2017, were charged higher fees than necessary.

It is alleged that Europcar charged surcharges of up to 1.43 per cent, although the rates varied over time and by the type of card. The ACCC alleges that the amount overcharged ranged from at least 0.18 percentage points to as much as 0.65 percentage points for different cards and time periods.

Europcar also did not reduce its surcharges despite being notified by its bank in July 2017 of the actual cost to accept payments by these cards. Instead, it is alleged Europcar continued to charge customers in excess of this amount, in breach of the law.

“The alleged conduct by Europcar in relation to its surcharge rates is particularly concerning, given we will allege that it was well aware of its own cost of acceptance from at least July 2017,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Businesses must not charge customers more than it costs them to process a card payment.”

“The ACCC’s action serves as a warning that the ACCC is paying close attention to those businesses who seek to overcharge customers making payments by credit or debit cards,” Sims said.

This is the first litigation the ACCC has commenced under the excessive surcharging provisions.