OFT forces airlines to scrap hidden debit card charges

cheap family holidays

cheap family holidaysHidden debit card charges when booking what appear to be cheap family holidays online are to become a thing of the past, after a consumer watchdog ruled that the practice is unfair.

Although the surcharges will remain for credit cards, 12 airlines - including easyJet and Ryanair - will now have to include debit card charges as part of the main ticket price when customers book online, instead of suddenly adding the costs onto the bill at the end of the booking process.

The Office of Fair Trading's ruling means that families will no longer have to incur hidden debit card charges and unexpected costs this summer when booking cheap family holidays and last-minute flight deals.

As well as greater transparency, there is also a great deal of support for stopping flight companies from being able to charge customers for using a debit card altogether.

OFT's chief executive, Clive Maxwell, said: "It is important that the cost presented when they search for a flight is realistic and that they are not surprised by extra charges."

Changes to online flight booking

The OFT investigated the following airlines, which have all agreed to make their debit card charges and hidden costs more transparent: Aer Lingus, BMI Baby, Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe,German Wings,Jet2, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson (TUI) and Wizz Air.

So far Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe, German Wings, Lufthansa, Thomas Cook, Thomson (TUI) and Wizz Air have all changed their pricing, internet sites and marketing systems in line with the OFT's ruling.

The other airlines are to modify their pricing and marketing systems before August 1 and complete remaining modifications over the next few months.

Excessive debit card charges

The Government has also revealed that it intends to bring in legislation very soon which would effectively ban excessive debit and credit card surcharges altogether. The airline market alone is already costing customers around £300 million each year.

The OFT said that debit cards are the "online equivalent of cash" and that therefore customers should not have to pay extra hidden costs and surcharges to use them.

Payments on credit cards, on the other hand, can be more expensive to process, and the OFT has said that airlines may still charge customers extra - but more transparently - for their use.

Therefore, if you and your family are looking to book flights abroad for a holiday this summer, your best hope of avoiding extra charges is to pay via a debit card.

If you are planning a family holiday in the sun on a budget, there are plenty of different ways to get great value for money, whether through all-inclusive package holidays or last minute bargains.