Ryanair credit card fees. Legal?

Ryanair credit card fees. Legal?

Hello Kitty

I'm sick of companies adding on charges to prices after I have decided to purchase. V.A.T. comes to mind, but at least there's an excuse for that, however paltry. No, I'm referring to 'handling fees' for credit card purchases.

Ticketmaster have had their share of Liveline airtime, but Ryanair are of course the acknowledged Shaolin masters of post-decision retroactive extra charges. Exasperated and white-faced with indignation for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to send a complaint to Visa.

You probably think I have nothing better to do (not true!), but drafting this letter only took a couple of minutes.

Of course, that doesn't include the time I wasted searching Visa's European site which is the worst example of empty corporate puffery I've come across in many months. It's the kind of mind-numbingly useless site that some pointy-haired boss ordered his weasels to extrude from an old Dreamweaver template. I'm surprised half of it isn't Lorem Ipsum.

I finally found the fine print I was looking for through Google. Do you think I'll get anywhere?


Dear Visa,

I am a Visa customer and I am curious to know the answer to this question. Is the company Ryanair within its rights to charge a handling fee for accepting credit cards as payment?

(UK Pounds/Euro or local currency equivalent) Booked on www.ryanair.com Booked via a Call Centre* or Airport
UK Pounds Euro UK Pounds Euro
Visa Electron – As a special offer to Visa Electron card holders, Ryanair, for a limited period only, will not apply a Debit Card charge Free Free Free Free
Debit Card Fee – Per passenger/ Per One Way Flight £4 €5 £4 €5
Credit Card/ELV Fee – Per passenger/ Per One Way Flight £4 €5 £4 €5

See: http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/faqs.php?sect=CHARGES

According to Visa International Operating Regulations, Volume I—General Rules p169

A Merchant must not:
• Add any surcharges to Transactions, unless local law expressly requires that a Merchant be permitted to impose a surcharge.

I am not aware of any such local law. In any case, your Rules for Visa Merchants—Card Acceptance and Chargeback Management Guidelines only allows for fees if

The fee is being charged for a bona fide convenience of using an alternative payment channel outside of the merchant’s normal business practice

I don't think anyone could argue that accepting credit cards is outside the 'normal business practice' of a web-based company. As their Chief Executive Michael O'Leary put it last month

"All we want to know about our customer base is that they've booked and we have their credit card number."

In anticipation of a swift reply.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Darwin

Here is the cut-and-paste boilerplate they responded with (basically 'nothing to do with us'):

Thank you for contacting Visa Europe.

Please be informed that Visa does not have contracts with merchants or cardholders, it is our Member banks and financial institutions that have contracts with merchants and cardholders. The bank which recruits suppliers willing to accept a Visa cards is referred to as "merchant acquirer".

Surcharge (or additional charges applied by a particular merchant) is regulated by local legislation. Visa rules and regulations do not permit surcharging however where local laws permit surcharging, local laws take precedence over Visa rules and regulations. To find out whether surcharge is permitted by local laws, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux.

If you run into problems with a merchant, please notify your Visa card-issuing bank. Visa Member financial institutions have access to the appropriate Visa rules and regulations. Your card-issuing bank can best answer your questions about surcharges. They also have access to the Notification of Customer Complaint forms that should be used by the financial institution to document and file this type of complaint. You can contact them directly, using the address or telephone number on your Visa statement or on the back of your card.

Kind Regards,

Customer Services Representative, Technology & Payment Services I Visa Europe I www.visaeurope.com