Commissioner's Blog: Say yes to receipts and check your bills
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Next time you’re asked ‘would you like a receipt?’ say yes and be sure to check it.
Contactless technology that allows us to pay with a wave of a card seems to be resulting in a lower take-up of receipts and this becomes a problem when there’s a query about how much was charged and what for.
If you fail to obtain proof of the transaction amount and what was provided and later discover the amount to be higher than expected on your bank statement, you will not have the evidence needed to dispute the matter.
Restaurants adding tips or ‘gratuity charges’ without authorisation is one alleged issue reported to Consumer Protection. The same allegation has been reported by users of taxis. Another potential problem could be a mistake with a digit on a card payment machine resulting in an overcharge, such as $30 instead of three dollars. For those paying with cash they may find they have been slugged with a merchant service fee that is not applicable because they did not pay by card.
New South Wales Fair Trading recently issued a warning urging the public to carefully check their bills, pointing to a recent case in which a consumer detected significant errors in two bills in the space of a week, saving themselves nearly $400 out of bills totalling $1,000.
Consumer Protection echoes the messages:
- Don’t assume bills, whether for home loans, utilities, credit cards, services or supermarket purchases are error free.
- Consumers need to play detective with their accounts. Check your bank statements against receipts. Interrogation can often save you serious money.
- All bills and accounts are worthy of scrutiny. The NSW case cited significant errors in a mortgage account and phone bill. When the providers were contacted, they admitted their errors and agreed to reverse the incorrect charges.
- Just because many payment systems are automated doesn’t mean there is no margin for error.
- Read your bills carefully when they arrive. Make sure you haven’t been overcharged or been double billed and contact the trader or your credit card provider if you pick up any errors. They will usually help resolve incorrect billing.
- Scanning errors can occur in transactions like grocery shopping. Read your receipts as soon as you get them and let the cashier know if you detect a mistake.
- Check subscription renewal notices to make sure you are only paying for the correct renewal period.
- Challenge unsubstantiated price increases on subscriptions, insurances and other products and services.
- Shop around for comparison prices and contact your current service provider. You will often find they are happy to review your account to keep you as a customer.
- Consumers should feel comfortable challenging businesses about bills.
- It pays to speak up and question any items you don’t recall paying for or don’t understand. A savvy consumer is an assertive consumer.
- Keep your receipts and keep your cool when dealing with traders who may have overcharged or double charged you.
- Credit card fraud is also something everyone should be alert to. Thieves can charge to your card by simply using your card numbers and expiration date. Don’t forget to check automatic or direct debits for errors too.
If you don’t like keeping hold of dockets, why not download our free app iShopWA onto your Apple or Android device and use it to store copies of receipts.
Anyone who believes a WA business is consistently or deliberately overcharging or taking unauthorised tips can report the matter to Consumer Protection for further investigation by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 30 40 54.
July 2020: Please note the iShopWA app is no longer supported. Consumer Protection recommends the ACCC Shopper app, which offers similar functionality and is available in both the App Store and Google Play.
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