For a fee when paying with a credit card: everything to prohibit surcharging

If the bill is suddenly higher than expected when shopping online or at the checkout, this may be due to the fees for credit card payments. Depending on the dealer’s handling, they are added to the price of the goods. The more or less new surcharging ban now prohibits these extra costs. We took a look at what the ban is about, what exceptions exist and what you can do if you still come across payment fees.

Surcharging fees were particularly difficult for flight and travel bookings, so that in the end there were sometimes ten euros more on the bill. But that has come to an end since the beginning of the year. The reason for this is the implementation of a directive of the European Union.

How the government wants to make cashless payments more consumer-friendly

Since January 13, 2018, a further development of the “First Payment Services Directive” of the EU has saved fees on credit card payments.

Where previously only “a common and reasonable” means of payment had to be offered without additional costs, § 270a in the Civil Code now states that merchant clauses, the additional costs, ie surcharges or payment method fees, when paying by “SEPA core direct debit, SEPA company direct debit, SEPA transfer or a payment card ”are ineffective. Common cards can be, for example, checking cards, but also Visa and MasterCards.

The law is based on EU law and is intended to promote and facilitate “the use of electronic payments for the benefit of retailers and consumers” as well as “fair competition, innovations and the market entry of new providers”. Europe-wide cashless payments are to be adapted to domestic ones in order to create a level playing field within the EU.

This change in law affects the entire EU, as well as online and brick-and-mortar retail. Franco Gee from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations sees this as “an important development”.

With the surcharging ban, merchants are prohibited from charging separate costs for the payment methods described in the law. Online sellers in particular, who have previously done this, must remove the surcharges from the buying process.

Whenever credit card payment fees are still allowed

Only credit cards issued by four-party card payment schemes are included in the law. As a result, credit cards, like the American Express, which is not widely used in Germany, fall outside the law.

In addition, companies that want to pay by credit card can still be imposed on Surcharges. Only the SEPA direct debit procedure is exempt from fees for both consumers and commercial customers.

The government has also decided to exclude the PayPal payment service from the law. As a result, however, the company acted itself and, in January, prohibited additional fees in its general terms and conditions for offering payment via PayPal. If a merchant violates PayPal’s terms and conditions, his account can be blocked. However, the payment service has special agreements with some large companies.

What you can do if you violate payment method fees

Similar to since the new European data protection regulation came into force, according to the Capital Lender, merchants who do not comply with the “Second Payment Services Directive” can be warned under competition law. But what can you do to make it happen?

  • If, for example, you encounter separate costs for the above-mentioned payment cards when shopping online during checkout despite the prohibition on surcharge, you can first contact consumer protection.
  • It refers to a complaining user in a contribution from March 20 to legal assistance. Many lawyers offer free initial assessments of the legal situation, which you can take advantage of and decide on depending on the outcome. There are also several ways to get legal advice on a budget.
  • The competition center also offers an online complaint form.

According to the law, claims for fees are simply ineffective with the payment methods mentioned above. If you have been charged the payment method fees mentioned in the context of the surcharging ban, you can request them back.

We would like to point out that our articles are only editorial content for the purpose of information, which do not constitute legal advice or the like.


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