I wrote previously about how you don’t have to pay the “late payment” fee that credit card companies charge. At the time, while plausible, it was only the word of a barrister (and on reflection, 50 per cent of them are wrong when they come up before the beak). Though note that one commenter succeeded there too.
However, today I tried it, and it’s true: credit card companies know that they can’t make these charges stick.
I got my two credit card bills, where I had one card with a large (recent) sum added on a very small sum (around £60) plus another card with about £50 outstanding. On both there was also a “late payment charge” of £20. Part of the reason I was late in paying was that the Barclaycard site wasn’t working, again. But that wasn’t the justification I was going to use for refusing to pay the late payment.
So I phoned the Barclaycard people. “Hello,” I said. (Calm, polite, in control.) “I’d like to pay my balance, but I’m not going to pay your penalty charges.”
OK, said the man. Let’s go through some security questions… “now, you say that you don’t want to pay the late payment charges. These are applied for being late with a payment.”
So I see, I said, but they’re not enforceable. You, Barclaycard, haven’t incurred the costs you’re levying here; my missing this payment by a day or two does not add up to twenty pounds of costs for you. It’s not enforceable – it’s an unfair contract term.
He said that they had to levy these charges, that they were averaged for everyone, and there was a whole department for dealing with late payments. Well, I haven’t heard from them, I said. You haven’t had to write me a solicitor’s letter. You haven’t had to get bailiffs in. Charge the costs to the people to whom you have to do those things. There’s no reason to levy these costs on me. (I stopped short of saying “It won’t stand up in court” because that might seem like tempting fate.)
We both stayed polite and calm (which is a key thing in dialogues like these: if you get angry, they win and will make your life hell). But, he said, your bank charges you for an overdraft, and they’ll send you a letter and charge you for it. (This was where he was really beginning to stretch it; for a bank, dealing with an overdraft and *writing a letter* counts as exceptional, whereas the credit card companies simply whack a charge on your next bill.) Well, I’ll speak to my bank if it tries that, I replied. But it’ll be between me and the bank.
It was just getting tothe point where I thought we were going to have to go around the buoy again, with me saying “unfair contract terms… not justified by your costs…”, when he abruptly seemed to decide he had better things to do, because he said “I see you’ve been a customer for some time now.. so we’ll forgive [it might have been some other word, like 'waive', but I don't recall exactly] the late payment charges.” A small troop cheered in my heart. And so I paid up the fair balance of my cards, including the ridiculous interest (and there’s another story..).
So, learn from me: you too can do it. Ring them up (don’t bother with letters; too slow, not interactive enough). Be insistent; it’s about the contract being unfair (read the original article at The Guardian), not anything else.
Why under scams? Because these payments are a form of scam. Avoid them.