The consumer watchdog has launched Federal Court proceedings against Europcar in its first legal action under laws banning companies from imposing excessive surcharges on customers paying with credit and debit cards.
The ACCC alleges the car rental company knowingly overcharged MasterCard and Visa customers by as much as 0.65 per cent between July and the beginning of November last year, contravening the ban on excessive payment surcharges that took effect in 2016.
Europcar allegedly charged card users more than it cost the company to complete transactions.
The company also ignored its bank, which notified it of the actual costs of card payments, and continued to charge an excess rate, the ACCC says.
“Businesses must not charge customers more than it costs them to process a card payment,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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.”
Europcar denies the surcharges were intentionally placed on to customers and said it refunded more than $20,000 as soon as it was able to identify and correct the issue.
The refund to about 22,600 customers included payments as low as one cent and as high as $18.33, at an average of 89 cents each.
“We have fully co-operated with the ACCC since it commenced its investigation in October 2017,” Europcar said in a statement.
“At every step we have sought to not only do the right thing by our customers, but to also work openly, co-operatively and transparently with the ACCC.”
The proceedings only relate to outlets owned and operated by Europcar and not those run by franchises.
In Australia, 96 out of 126 Europcar outlets are owned and operated by the firm.