Consumer NZ launches petition to fight 'sneaky fees'

Hidden fees are becoming more common as online shopping becomes more popular, Consumer NZ says.

Hidden fees are becoming more common as online shopping becomes more popular, Consumer NZ says.

A consumer advocacy group has launched a petition, calling for a law change to tackle "sneaky fees".

Consumer NZ has been campaigning against fees that are added on to a product's advertised cost as a shopper goes through the purchase process.

It gives the example of airline fares or event tickets, where consumers have no choice but to pay a booking fee, after they select an item at an advertised price.

"These sneaky fees can add anything from $5 to more than $50 to the advertised price. All up, consumers are paying millions. We estimate retailers could be earning $68 million each year from fees charged on top of the headline price."

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A survey by the organisation found two-thirds of consumers had been stung with the fees. More than two-thirds said they did not like it and thought retailers should have to disclose the full price of everything they sold, upfront.

Sixteen per cent said they had paid "hidden" fees five or more times in the past 12 months.

Consumer NZ said when prices were not clear, consumers could be misled into making decisions they might not otherwise.

"The Fair Trading Act prohibits misleading representations about price. But it hasn't been effective at stopping sneaky fees. Companies point to small print or other disclaimers as evidence they've provided sufficient information about additional purchase costs.

"Other countries provide better consumer protection. Across the Tasman, companies are prohibited from advertising a component of a price without prominently displaying the total amount the consumer must pay."

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The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has previously advised against all-includive pricing rules because it said there was not a sufficient problem to justify them, Consumer said.

"However, our research shows the problem is real and, with the rise of online trading, looks set to get worse. When goods and services are bought online, we've found extra fees may only be revealed near the end of the purchase process."

It wants people to sign a petition to get the law changed. You can see it here.

"We're planning to keep the petition up for a few months," spokeswoman Jessica Wilson said.

"We know from our survey, there's majority support for change. The petition is another way we're giving consumers to voice their support."

 - Stuff


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