Confusion over charges for using cash machines

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Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I needed some cash in a hurry and used a machine in a local shopping centre. Just before the money was due to be dispensed a message flashed up on screen to say that I’d be charged for the service. Is this legal?

SW (internet)

A These days trying to work out whether a transaction from a cash machine is chargeable is not always easy. Most bank machines don’t charge for using debit cards. But credit card cash advances can rack up hefty fees.

It’s now becoming commonplace for ‘convenience’ type cash machines to appear in shops, petrol stations, and shopping malls. Almost without exception they all charge for cash withdrawals.

These machines are company owned, and the charges are extortionate, especially for small amounts.

Typically they are £1.50 per withdrawal, which is a lot if you just want the odd 10 quid or so.

You have to be warned of the fee, but as you’ve already discovered, you may not get it until you’re just about to get the cash which makes it very irksome to press the reject button.

To add to the confusion, banks only have to tell you that you have not been charged for using a machine. They don’t have to make it clear there is no charge, which is the way many banks artfully get around notifying you of charges for using a credit card.

Q I’m really quite upset because I saw an ad in a travel agent’s window for three-day city breaks in Rome for £195. When I went in they told me this holiday was no longer available but offered me a similar break for £280. Almost 10 days later the ad is still on display. Can I insist on paying the lower price?

DC (internet)

A No, you can’t. But the travel agent should have removed the lower price advertising following your abortive enquiry, not keep it on display to entice customers into the shop. It’s an offence to knowingly mislead customers with lower price offers. In many circumstances they will almost certainly breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

As you live in Portsmouth, you should set about giving the details to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 who will arrange to pass it on to Trading Standards.

Q I left my TV with a repair shop after it packed up without warning. When it was ready to collect I wasn’t able to afford the £45 bill. Now the shop has sent me a letter saying unless I collect and pay for it within 14 days they’ll sell it off to recover their repair charges. Is this legal?

MA (internet)

A It all seemed a little odd to me so I contacted the shop for you. They told me that the TV has been hanging around their workshop for more than three months, awaiting your collection.

Apparently they wrote to you previously about it but you ignored their letter. I’m sorry to say that unless you can raise the money to pay, they have a perfectly good and legally watertight case to sell off your TV to recover their costs for the repairs and storage.