I cannot be the only one who looked with a mixed viewpoint on the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) guidance following on the UK Advertising Standards Authority rulings on fees.

At the time, working for a system supplier, I thought “Gee, we need to get on this straight away” – followed by some eager venues calling the help desk with demands to know what we were going to do to help them comply, not an entirely easy job.

From someone who when he speaks at conferences highlights the fact he dislikes add-on ticket fees, you may think I should have been celebrating.  However, as much as I dislike fees, it is the unclear information around fees, either when they are to be charged, how much they are, or to what transactions they will be applied, that annoys the public, me included.

as much as I dislike fees, it is the unclear information around fees, either when they are to be charged, how much they are, or to what transactions they will be applied, that annoys the public, me included.

So here are some ‘to fee or not to fee’ scenarios and their, in my view, compliance.

The corner shop / pub. 

Sign on the cash register, telling you that all credit and debit card transactions under £10 will be subject to a 50p surcharge to cover bank fees they incur. To avoid such a fee, I often add a chocolate bar to my goods to push me over the £10!  On a low value transaction such as this, there is a low profit margin, one going to be significantly reduced by the bank commission charges, so the principle seems fair.  As venues you may have a 19p charge per card from your bank but the corner shop will most likely have a higher rate and may pay more for the provision of the terminal, so it is a fair figure there too.

 

This is clear, fair and most important PRE-CONTRACT

This is clear, fair and most important PRE-CONTRACT

 

The rate of 2% is often quoted as the commission on credit cards, so that would be 20p for a £9.99 transaction, but again many merchant deals are based on x pence plus y%, so probably we are still fair.

Finally, that low tech. piece of paper on the cash register clearly spells out before your goods are added up the charges you may incur paying by card, making it:

  1. SIMPLE for people to understand why they are used / how to avoid the charge
  2. CLEAR to all people looking to transact
  3. PRE-CONTRACT so available before we start the transaction, not revealed at the end.

The Airlines

In many of the talks and seminars I have been to in the past six months on this subject, budget airlines seem to be blamed for “causing this” – **** air or ****jet, advertising a return ticket to Malaga for 25 pence only to reveal as we approach checkout that the price is subject to air tax, landing fees, passenger fuel duty surcharge, all of which you CANNOT AVOID, and then added cost options to have priority boarding, adding luggage etc, and even  paying by DEBIT CARD saw us pay £6 per person per leg!  So even though the airline was being charged 19p for our £400+ debit card transaction, they saw fit to impose £24 in fees, or in other words they saw a chance to make profit. Now in the main, EU regulations have forced the airline industry to clean its act up, so much so that I can be really annoyed when I find a bargain flight to the US, only to find out no taxes or fees are displayed.  But in Europe at least they HAVE put their affairs.   Presumably this is where we want our industry to get to?

Two examples I like are below.  EasyJet on their pricing grid show the complete price, and over on the right they highlight the price difference if you pay with a Credit card, again what we want to see. British Airways are again very clear on the total price, telling us at the final stages that it is made up of their fare, plus charges imposed on them, giving us a further chance to see how that figure is made up, always useful to know that standing in line at immigration in the US costs you £4.20!

LHR - JFK Fees

LHR – JFK Fees Explanation on BA.com

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EasyJet Spells out CC Price Clearly

I did go looking but could not find any airlines (in the UK) that seemed to either breach regulations or mislead customers in the spirit of “what you see is what you pay”, but then I switched my attention to . . . .

The Entertainment Ticketing Industry

There does seem to be a massive amount of either confusion, apathy or just unwillingness to adopt the same practices as the Dog & Duck or Easyjet when I speak to venues, so I decided to see how bad it really was.

hang on – ALL tickets were subject to a £2 fee – so the tickets weren’t £18.50 were they?

I went on a hunt for non compliant sites.  The first one I found was more of a technicality, as it quoted prices in its Internet ticketing engine and then a pop up box stated a £4 extra premium charge at some times.  Well that should all be in the from and to quoted price, with the most expensive tickets on the premium shows being the “top price”.  But hang on – ALL tickets were subject to a £2 fee – so the tickets weren’t £18.50 were they?  They were actually £20.50. Fair enough there was an explanation of this if I went on clicking, but the airlines don’t  need a separate pop-up box, so why does the blank blank blank?

Technically not compliant but a step in the right direction?

Technically not compliant but a step in the right direction?

I hit a fair few more, the Dominion with their presentation of Evita had a very CLEARLY laid out banner talking of seat levies and postage charges before I had even had chance to pick my seat, again, CLEAR, SIMPLE, PRE-CONTRACT.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of venues with no transaction or booking fees at all. Yes, many were own productions and self-promoted, but good to see.  Who knows? Perhaps the cost of the box office is now rolled into the promoter deal for some of the shows I looked at?  That in itself is a massive step forward.

So it is not that bad now is it, Andrew?

So I didn’t find countless examples of venues not showing or even discussing prices until the basket. So if the only thing we do have to worry about is the application and being technically incorrect in how we display prices and fees, then we may be finally “getting the message” that the public want transparency, not to mention the regulators.  I fear there are hundreds of other venues who are not doing it though, whether from choice, ignorance or because their system perhaps does not easily support it.

The question is therefore not’ to fee or not to (display) fee’,  but who is going to take the non-complying venues to task and when?

we may be finally “getting the message” that people want transparency