This week sees the end of a minor inconvenience suffered by every shopper: the extra charge levied by some shopkeepers on some purchases paid for by bank card, usually for minor amounts.
The excuse for the supplement was the cost of renting the payment terminal from Bancontact, the company which operates the debit card system – fees which can, according to the national union for the self-employed, can run to as much as €600 to €900 a year depending on the number of transactions. However, the union said, only 9% of businesses were still charging a supplement when polled at the start of this year.
All of that came to an end with the payment services directive from the EU, which came into force in January. Belgium has taken an extra seven months to implement the directive, however, with the excuse that the measure had to be transposed into Belgian law.
The ban on supplementary payments also extends to online payments – “to all payments made by card, including to the professions, to municipal administrations, to utilities and other organisations,” says the finance ministry.
The directive, the ministry claims, is driven by a desire for “equity and clarity”. Traders may still impose a minimum limit for payments by card, however, although they may not charge a fee for payments below that limit. And customers have to be informed clearly before making their purchases.
In related news, retailers report a 10% increase in spending by bank card during the summer sales in July compared to the same period last year, with a total of 198,363,705 transactions. The first day of the sales on 30 June became the third top-selling day of the past year, just behind the Christmas shopping of 22 and 23 December 2017.
But sales in general during the sales were disappointing, retailers said. The reasons given – the heat which kept shoppers out of town, the World Cup, and the fact that National Day on 21 July this year fell on a Saturday.