A review of the card payments market has “come too late” to help agents struggling financially after January’s ban on surcharging, the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president has warned.
Ken McLeod said he feared agents might have to wait until 2020 before any potential changes are implemented, estimating the surcharging ban and “wildly varying” card processing fees had added £5,000-£10,000 in extra annual costs to smaller businesses.
The Payment Services Regulator (PSR) recently published its draft terms of reference for the market review into card-acquiring services.
Aspects under consideration include whether there are “credible alternatives” to card-acquiring services for some or all merchants, and the outcomes of the competitive process, such as “the fees merchants pay and the quality of service they receive”.
A consultation, launched to determine the parameters of the review, will run until mid-September, with the final terms of reference and timetable for the review itself published “before the end of 2018”.
“It’s shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted,” McLeod told TTG. “When you look at the speed that the government takes on these things, it’s an obscene amount of time – God knows how long it will take.
“The banks must be laughing, and this lack of urgency unfortunately really isn’t doing the travel trade any favours whatsoever and it’s too late to help those who are struggling now.”
McLeod, who is also director of industry affairs at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said the consultation would be discussed at the SPAA’s next meeting.
Agents have until 5pm on September 14 to give their views to the PSR, emailed to email@example.com or in letter form.
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, urged: “There’s a lot of noise in government at the moment, and to expect them to focus on one particular area of business is difficult, but [card fees] affect retail travel like no other [sector], so it is a conversation that we need to engage with and have furiously.”
He said his main priority for TTNG members was to “secure neutrality” surrounding agents covering costs, adding that members were “actively supporting” suppliers who had raised their commission to help offset agents’ payments costs.
Kuoni national sales manager Brad Bennetts added that the operator had “definitely seen an uplift” in its industry-wide trade bookings since the beginning of the year, when it raised rates by 0.5%.