Unexpected charges being taken out of our accounts is always a nasty shock. With tough financial times for many, most of us have been keeping a much closer eye on our spending lately and this has led to increasing interest into what exact techniques companies are using to squeeze all this extra cash out of us.
For example, here’s one NYT article about the hidden charges we are dealing with everyday. Perhaps even more so, there is hope that being aware of what is waiting out there to surprise us will help lead to ways of stopping businesses from continuing to charge us for things we do not need nor want in the future.
Almost everybody has a phone these days but they are less and less like phones and more like high-tech computer systems. With so many features and extras it can be difficult to keep track of what is included in the hefty price-tag and what is considered a bonus and therefore comes courtesy of an additional charge.
While most people are aware that many applications (apps) on smartphones will cost them money to download; what many do not realise is that they will constantly be bombarded by alerts telling them they need to upgrade to the newest version or add additional features – this of course, costs extra money. Some apps will even charge the consumer while not being used, if still left active on the phone; leading to a hefty sum at the end of the month when the phone bill arrives.
Other phone related hidden charges come through downloading ‘free’ stuff – like ringtones or wallpapers – only to then incur a monthly charge for the privilege of being able to continue using this download.
Paying by credit card might seem like a helpful, convenient option but banks often charge consumers for the right to do this. Even withdrawing some of your own money from your own account can result in being charged when done from certain cashpoints. Debit cards also hide a multitude of sins; with unexpected extra surcharges often plaguing your account if you opt to use your card abroad.
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) has been the center of an intense media storm as of late. It is often added to the consumers’ payments by lenders when taking out a loan, credit card or mortgage. Essentially, millions of customers were sold additional cover (aimed to help uphold loan payments if the recipient fell ill or was made redundant) that they were unaware they were paying for or did not even need. Many people have been hit by this scam and it is the source of much on-going controversy.
What is being done?
Thankfully, there are measures being taken to stop hidden charges; with details now having to be made far clearer to consumers before they agree to a purchase. In terms of phones; customer service hotlines will no longer be permitted to charge above the standard rate and people will have to specifically choose to receive extra paid content when buying a product; it can no longer be added via a pre-ticked box on the order form.
The good news for card owners is that businesses can no longer make extra charges for using certain methods of payment; credit card surcharges should soon be a thing of the past.
As for the PPI; it can be claimed back. With an 86% success rate, Gladstone Brookes – and others like them – can help consumers by contacting their lenders and trying to get back the money they never agreed to pay out.
Being diligent and keeping a close eye on any small print can often make all the difference when hoping to avoid unwanted hidden charges but with so many different types out there trying to catch us out, it is good to know that there are at least measures being taken to help the consumers bite back.
Readers, what hidden charges you have faced lately? We will appreciate if you share your stories.
[email protected] says
Thanks for the advice! Great points all around.
[email protected] With a Few says
When I was younger I’d get bombarded with them. I actually probably still am sometimes and just don’t know it. I will be looking closer, thanks for the reminder!
My Multiple Incomes says
Great points especially on PPI. Most people do not really take the time to go over the contracts they are signing especially when it comes to minor things, but we should always take into account the fact that any amount charged to us will have to be paid with our hard earned money and they may seem small, but once accumulated you’ll realized that it’s bigger than you thought it was.
Caesar F says
My cable company started to charge me more. Turns out that the plan I paid for 6 months was only a 6-month special.
All the examples here of fees that are charged by companies and while they may not be at the forefront of the conversation when the items are offered, IF people take the time to read through what they are signing or ask the sales person to point out where it discusses all costs, the information is there. It’s not like fees are just being added without any notice.
People have to take responsibility for themselves be informed about what they are buying. Before I use a product or service I ensure I make sure I am aware of what the costs are going to be for me to use it.
I’m not saying companies don’t try to sneak the info by you, but if you seek out the info it’s all there to see.
I work for a company where we send out a size able booklet every December to tell clients what the fees are going to be in the upcoming year along with the ways and deadlines where they can avoid them. It’s not a blurb on their statement it is not legalese pamphlet with a billions words in size 2 font. It is a booklet with plain, large laymen terms writing to provide this info. It never fails that we get countless calls from people complaining about the fees and when we say you were sent this info, they will plainly say I didn’t read that or I didn’t open that. They don’t even bother saying they never got it, just that they couldn’t be bothered with looking at it. Who’s error is that? I open every piece of mail that comes in. It takes two seconds if it is junk I treat it as such and if if its relating to any accounts, products or services I use, I read it and file if necessary. Same goes for email, since much of my business is done that way.