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.