Monday, 6 June 2011

Why ban what's already not allowed?

There have been a flood of headlines that came through my Twitter feed today such as that in The National, which read "Shops banned from stinging customers with credit card surcharge."

This was a message which came through the Dubai Media Office as a directive that was passed down which said retailers can't charge a surcharge if you decide to pay by credit card.  This may sound like a victory for consumer rights advocates but as per the merchant agreements that major credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard have with retailers, they don't allow you to impose a surcharge anyway.  As a result, this practice has been under control for years and anyone caught doing this, risks having their credit card machine being yanked away by the merchant banks that represent Visa and MasterCard.

This is the reason the petrol stations stopped accepting credit cards a few years ago as they got into a dispute with the credit card companies as they said they couldn't sustain the commission that had to be paid for accepting credit cards and knowing they'd be in violation of their merchant agreements if they charged a premium, they decided against accepting credit cards going forward (click here to see a Gulf News report on this in 2007).

No Petrol if you pay by credit card.
Image from

With a statement like this being issued by the Dubai Media Office, you then have to wonder, what was the point of it?

It sounds like positive PR that's supposed to leave you feeling warm and tingly inside.  If you don't feel warm and tingly now, I suggest you write back to The National, Gulf News and anyone else who carries this story in the newspapers tomorrow morning to tell them just that. Their column inches could be better used to tell us something that is more newsworthy.