Six subsidiaries of Nine Entertainment Co (Nine) have paid penalties totalling $159,840 after the ACCC issued them with 12 infringement notices for allegedly charging subscribers and advertisers excessive payment surcharges.
Nine will also provide approximately $450,000 in consumer redress to eligible advertising, home delivery and digital subscription customers.
The ACCC was concerned that from December 2018, after Nine merged with Fairfax Media, most consumer and advertiser transactions processed by Nine in which a payment surcharge was applied involved an excessive payment surcharge.
Nine applied payment surcharges to digital and home delivery subscription services as well as radio, publishing, TV and digital advertising.
The ACCC’s infringement notices were issued in relation to payments made using MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards between August and December 2020 which attracted stated surcharges ranging from 0.9 per cent to 1.55 per cent. The ACCC alleged that these surcharges exceeded the actual cost to Nine by between 0.09 and 0.84 per cent, depending on the method of payment.
“A payment surcharge is excessive and in breach of the law if it exceeds the costs to the business of processing the payment,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“While the average over-charge per consumer was relatively small, given the number of transactions processed by Nine, this added up to a significant amount.”
About 220,000 current digital and home delivery subscribers who paid by MasterCard or Visa credit or debit card will be provided a one-off cash adjustment of $1.92, which is the average excess payment surcharge paid by those consumers, or an extension to their subscription.
Nine will also contact affected advertising customers to advise they may have been over-surcharged and are entitled to obtain refunds.
“This should serve as a reminder to businesses that the ACCC will continue to investigate complaints about businesses imposing excessive payment surcharges,” Mr Keogh said.
Nine has since amended its payment surcharges to comply with the RBA standard on excessive payment surcharges.
The infringement notices were issued to Fairfax Media Management Pty Ltd (relating to subscription services), Nine Radio Operations Pty Ltd (relating to radio advertising services), Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd (relating to the publication of advertising), and NBN Pty Ltd, Nine Digital Pty Ltd and Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd (in relation to TV and digital advertising services).
The ACCC has previously issued infringement notices for excessive payment surcharges to Red Balloon Pty Ltd, Cruisin Motorhomes Pty Ltd, Fitness First Australia Pty Ltd and Lloyds Auctioneers and Valuers Pty Ltd. The Federal Court also ordered CLA Trading Pty Ltd (trading as Europcar) to pay penalties for excessive payment surcharges.
Further information on excessive surcharging is available at Credit, debit and prepaid card surcharges.
Note to editors:
The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened the excessive surcharge provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act