Newsagent travel card surcharge draws fire

by Gazette Reporter
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Retailers charging a 50c surcharge on Leap Card transactions could face having the facility withdrawn by the National Transport Authority.
A number of newsagents in Dublin’s City are now charging a 50c surcharge per Leap Card transaction.
According to one newsagent situated in a prime city centre location, they added the charge recently because of the low margin being made through the facility and how time consuming it is for staff.
However, the National Transport Authority, which has statutory responsibility for the Leap Card, said that if a shop has a general policy to surcharge low value credit/debit card transactions this is “considered to be a matter for the shop” as long as “the surcharge isn’t specific to Leap Card”.
“However if stores apply a surcharge to cash transactions the authority reserves the right to withdraw the shop’s Leap Card agency,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement, Payzone, the facilitator for Leap Card to retailers, said its position in relation to this surcharge was the same as that of the NTA.
“We do not condone the addition of a fee by retailers. The vast majority of our retailers do not apply a surcharge on payments services. However, a very small number of incidents have been brought to our attention recently and we are working with the National Transport Authority and retailers to resolve the issue.
“This service is valued by retailers as a key differentiator as it is only available in a limited number of retail locations,” the spokesperson added.
However when contacted by The Gazette, a spokesman for the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association said the NTA could not withdraw the facility as the only two items with price control are cigarettes and the lotto.
“Regardless of what product is sold in shop, it is the shop that determines the price as long as it is not subject to price control. Price control comes from the Government. Cigarettes are price controlled, a lottery ticket is price controlled but everything else is free market.
“The market then decides if the price is good value or not good value and people make their choice based on their observations,” he said.
Speaking to The Gazette, one newsagent said: “The average margin on them is 2.5% and it is ridiculous because it is so time consuming… It used to be 4% when it was Dublin Bus.
“Initially, the market ploy [to retailers] was: ‘Oh you will get the Leap Card customers coming in and they will buy other products’ – 95% of the time people come in, top up their card and walk out the door.
“On top of that you have people buying the Leap Card online [which has to be validated by retailers]. They are coming in, it has to be put through the machine, there are four or five functions we need to do to top up the card and we get no payment for that. For the volume of business we do on it we are making absolutely nothing.”
The newsagent said most customers did not seem to mind paying and that they weren’t the first to bring it in.
He has called for a review of the margin to retailers because of the work involved.
“If that was sorted out it would be an awful lot better because the way it is at the moment, at times, we would wonder if it is actually justified to do the Leap Card,” he said.

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