Commissioner's Blog: Shop smart - remember receipts
With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Newcombe
Technology that allows us to ‘tap and go’ or pay with a wave of a card can be convenient and of benefit to people who don’t want to carry cash. However, when contactless transactions become paperless, as is often the case, there can be issues for consumers who later want specific breakdowns of what they paid or to challenge a business after the fact.
It’s an everyday occurrence to see Western Australians declining receipts at the till. This seems to be particularly common when buying food or drink. Let’s imagine that you buy a coffee for four dollars using PayPass or payWave and a week later when checking your bank statement you find that you were charged $40 in error. What proof would you have that you didn’t buy food and drinks to the value of $40? Not having a receipt means we get into ‘he said, she said’ territory and a business may not be able to easily produce the exact electronic transaction record.
Recently we have heard reports of consumers who have paid for taxis by waving their card over a taxi driver’s e-payment device, or paid for meals at restaurants using ‘tap and go’, and later realised they have been charged extra for a tip that they did not authorise.
Another known problem is rounding being applied to debit or credit card payments, which is not acceptable. An electronic transaction allows the processing of amounts less than five cents, so there is no need to round up $9.99 to $10.00 if the consumer pays by EFTPOS. It is only if you hand over a 10 dollar note that you forfeit 1 cent because rounding to the nearest five cents applies to cash payments.
It is also important to note that amounts ending in five cents should never be rounded. For example, if a fast food meal deal was advertised as $4.95 it is unnecessary and likely breaking consumer law, to charge consumers $5.00. If a large number of customers paid an extra five cents each, the consumer detriment might be considerable.
Consumers should challenge rounding mistakes, incorrect prices or unauthorised tips using receipts as proof. The best time to do this is straight after purchase before you leave, or if not, you should return or make contact as soon as possible to dispute the amount. If a business will not refund you, you can email Consumer Protection firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 30 40 54.
Anyone who believes a WA retailer or service provider is consistently or deliberately overcharging, taking unauthorised tips or rounding incorrectly, to the detriment of consumers can report the matter to Consumer Protection for further investigation.
Remember smart shoppers keep their receipts and there’s a reason why it’s called proof of purchase. Download our free app iShopWA onto your Apple or Android device and use it to store copies of receipts if you are worried about losing the original paper version or it fading.
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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