How I see it … who’s responsibility is accessible information around surcharges?

While visiting a restaurant last tonight, I encountered a situation that made me uncomfortable—compounded by societal norms, values and accepted processes.

The issue that leaves me uneasy is related to paying for our dinner. Tonight a printout was provided to check before payment. This included a list of meals and their prices. My friend read this and agreed that this was correct. However, on payment, the total was higher due to a surcharge for payWave use regardless of card type.

Debit card with a chip for payWave.
A chip or payWave card stock photo

Tonight the staff said nothing about a surcharge and my friend didn’t notice this until after we had left. My expectation would have been that the staff verbally informed us of the surcharge before adding it to the bill and taking payment.

While a surcharge is commonly expected for payment via credit card, this is not common when paying by debit card. PayWave seems to have a surcharge for both credit and debit cards and individual vendors decide whether to pass this cost on to the customer.

The inconsistency between vendors of passing on surcharges and communicating surcharges is key. I am happy to pay a surcharge when I know about it, but I do not think I should pay one when not informed.

So there appear to be two issues. The first is no surcharge notification and many vendors seem to rely on customers to notice a difference or small hand written note explaining this and opt out or question the difference between the expected bill and the charge on the card. The second issue relates to customers with disabilities who find it challenging with transactions requiring card insertion.

When I mentioned this, my friend explained some places have a small sign (often handwritten at the counter) stating x% surcharge for credit cards and very rarely, there may be one explaining the surcharge for payWave. She also confirmed that on multiple occasions, the surcharge has added automatically without informing the customer, particularly by the newer EFTPOS terminals that automatically add this.

As a blind person, I rely on staff to inform me of costs or any additions to the charges as it is difficult to read receipts and EFTPOS machines. However, there is also a new trend of adding. Surcharges without notification or appropriate signage or communication, which pushes the responsibility of noticing, questioning or opting out surcharges to the customer before payment. If a person cannot read for any reason, they seem to be significantly disadvantaged.

My thought would be that it is the responsibility of the vendor to make it clear if the addition is. I also wonder if staff taking payments are aware that their selection of payment type adds a surcharge.

A reasonable accommodations to make the shopping process equitable for those customers who are challenged by reading or card insertion is needed.

The most obvious accomodation is to let the customer know verbally before completing the electronic transaction if the total differs from the information given, e.g. on a menu or itemised receipt. Not doing this could be considered a form of invisible discrimination based on disability.

To get equity for those who are challenged inserting a card or using the machine would be to not charge a surcharge for payWave making it the same price or fee as insertion of the card.

Consistent use of an agreed process system would go a long way to making NZ more accessible.

One thought on “How I see it … who’s responsibility is accessible information around surcharges?

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  1. Well done Sally. As usual you have thought deeply and put into words what many people who do not have a disability think about but don’t action on it.

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