THEY’RE all at it these days. And the worrying thing is they’re all getting away with it.

What I’m talking about is “drip-charging”. You know the sort of thing; you book a cheap flight and then you discover it costs you £18 in “processing fees” to make a credit card payment, £25 if you want to take any form of luggage with you, and a mere £4 if you want to go to the loo while on board the aircraft.

But a more worrying trend has now appeared. It involves making these drip-charges look like a special deal – as though it’s actually going to save you money.

A letter from BritishTelecom dropped through my office letterbox recently. The big – and I do mean big – brightly coloured headline splashed across the top proclaimed: “Change your billing options and save £36  per year.”

Well, that sounded good. Tight times. Credit crunch, and all that. It would be good to save a few pounds simply by changing my billing option.

Aha! But then, when you read on, you find – in much smaller writing – that “The payment processing fee for not paying by Direct Debit or Monthly Payment Plan is now £3 per month, per bill.”

That’s not really a “discount” as the headline says then, is it? Rather, it is the introduction of a new processing fee.

Moreover, it goes on “However, you will not be charged this fee if you switch to Direct Debit or Monthly Payment Plan.” In other words, they are introducing a new payment processing charge that will cost you £36 each year, unless you start paying the way THEY want you to pay.

New rules, new charges, and it will cost you dosh if you don’t comply.

Now, introducing that as a “discount” (their words, not mine) in anybody’s book, is highly misleading. Actually, it’s downright dishonest.

A change of contract and the introduction of a new charge dressed up as a price cut is deceitful.

Bad enough that companies charge exorbitant fees for processing credit and debit cards – which is profit to them. And even worse that they can charge you up to £4 for postage, then send out concert tickets by second class post that costs them mere pennies.

But what British Telecom is doing here surely borders on fraud.

And if you think this won’t affect you, think again. Because if the business community tolerates this sort of behaviour then you can bet your boots they’ll roll it out to include the domestic customers, too.

So, how far do you think I would get if, each time I sent one of these thieving companies a cheque I also sent them an invoice for “payment processing”, along with a ridiculous charge for “postage”. Not very far, I wager.

 Well, we will soon find out; watch this space.

Drew McAdam


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