Surcharge sting for fuel cards

By Chris Thomson | posted on October 26, 2017

AN ALBANY pensioner is not happy at being zapped with a surcharge for using his State Government-issued fuel card while in Perth recently to attend a hospital appointment.

Disability pensioner John May, of Bayonet Head, gets $575 a year to spend on petrol.

On October 10 at BP Kelmscott on Albany Highway he was charged a $2.08 surcharge on a $69.36 purchase of unleaded petrol, while returning to Bayonet Head from an appointment with an endocrinologist at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

“Over a period of time, it adds up,” Mr May told The Weekender.

“Money’s pretty tight.”

He said he saw no sign advising the fee would be charged.

However, the servo’s owner, Richard Wheeler, said there was a sign on every bowser as well as at the cash register.

“I understand where the pensioners are coming from,” said Mr Wheeler, who has owned the fuel station since 1978.

He said he did not charge a surcharge on credit cards, but started passing the surcharge on three years ago when a fee charged by card management company Motorpass was jacked up from one per cent to three per cent of each transaction.

“I wish I didn’t have to charge it, but that’s what they charge us,” the owner-dealer said.

“Three percent’s a bit heavy on us when you consider sometimes we’re only making three or four cents a litre.

“And then you have to rent the machine off them for $50 a month. It’s just pay, pay, pay.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport, which administers Motorpass’s management of the fuel card, said the department had received a “very low volume” of complaints about the extraction of surcharges from pensioners.

“In terms of surcharges, there is a cost to install and operate on-line technology related to any card payments including the Fuel Card, and some service stations choose to apply a surcharge to recover these costs,” the spokesperson said.

“The surcharge, which is designed to help businesses cover the cost of accepting card payments, can cost up to three per cent of the transaction value.

“The Reserve Bank of Australia determines the policy in regard to surcharging, and their standard emphasises the right of merchants to recover card acceptance costs through a surcharge.”

The spokesperson refused to comment on whether they believed a transaction fee on pensioners was ethical and in the spirit of the regional pensioner fuel card program.

Asked if the department would increase the amount available under the program to lessen the impact of any surcharge on pensioners, the spokesperson said the amount available was determined by the Department of Regional Development and subject to ministerial approval.

A Weekender ring-round to all 10 fuel stations in Albany that take the fuel cards confirmed that none passed on the surcharge.

Caltex Central on York Street once did, but stopped the practice about a year ago.