Nine Entertainment Co will pay back more than 200,000 digital and home delivery subscribers after it was slapped by the competition regulator for slugging them with excessive surcharges on credit and debit card payments.
The television, radio, publishing and streaming company, which owns The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, will pay back about $450,000 to eligible customers, including advertisers and subscribers, and will also pay a $160,000 fine to the competition regulator for the breach.
The infringement notices were issued in relation to payments made using MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards between August and December 2020, which attracted surcharges beyond what is normally expected in payment processing. The surcharges were applied to digital and home delivery subscription services as well as radio, publishing, TV and digital advertising, excluding Stan.
A Nine spokesperson said the company accepted the findings and had paid the relevant fine.
“The surcharge overcharge was unintentional, it was not an error which affected all of Nine (for example, Stan and Future Women were not affected) and we have taken steps to credit those subscribers/advertisers impacted. We have also reviewed our processes to ensure the error is not repeated,” the spokesperson said.
As a result, about 220,000 current digital and home delivery subscribers who paid by MasterCard or Visa credit or debit card will be provided a one-off cash adjustment of $1.92.
Nine has made several changes including removing any surcharge for Visa debit and MasterCard debit cards for all subscription payments and have reduced the surcharge to a maximum of 0.5 per cent for all Visa credit and MasterCard credit subscriber payments. Nine has also removed the surcharges for advertising invoices.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh said payment surcharges were excessive if they exceeded the costs to the businesses of processing the money.
“While the average over-charge per consumer was relatively small, given the number of transactions processed by Nine, this added up to a significant amount,” Mr Keogh said.