THE Fiji Fuel Retailers Association has opposed moves to ban surcharge fees imposed on users of debit and credit cards.
The association wants instead for the Reserve Bank of Fiji to follow the precedent set by Australia and New Zealand over the matter.
In a letter to The Fiji Times, which was copied to the Consumer Council of Fiji, Fiji Commerce Commission and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, the FFRA said the Consumer Council could then monitor merchants to ensure they were profiting from the surcharges by merely passing on the cost of such transactions.
FFRA secretary John Philp said the Reserve Bank of Australia had ruled in 2003 for its retailers to be allowed to pass on the costs of credit card transactions.
"They deemed it a form of price fixing. Shouldn't we all find it odd that a bank such as the ANZ which is headquarted in Melbourne, Australia and is barred by the reserve bank of that country from enforcing a no surcharge stipulation on its merchants, and would then turn around and enforce that same no surcharge rule in Fiji?"
And in its letter to the Reserve Bank of Fiji on the surcharge issue, Mr Philp said its opposition to the no surcharge rule was based on the fact that it was a form of price fixing by the credit card companies and their agents - the commercial banks in Fiji.
"Credit cards are a form of payment for our customers, just as cash is.
"When a bank bars a merchant from adding a surcharge they are attempting to make credit card use as cheap as cash, which is a form of price fixing and discriminates against those who are using cash.
"When the banks make retailer merchants sign agreements which prohibit their ability to pass on the cost of transacting credit cards they are forcing us to pass on the costs of credit cards to our cash customers," he said.
The Reserve Bank of Australia passed a law in January 2003 outlawing the bank practice of forcing the merchants to comply with the merchant agreements which barred the retailers from passing on the credit card commissions, Mr Philp said.
According to Mr Philp, the credit card companies passed on costs of between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent to merchants.
"Tourists who rent cars in Fiji are also discriminated against, as very few service stations accept credit cards, and the few that do at present because they are adding a surcharge will soon stop this service should the Reserve Bank of Fiji impose a ban on surcharging."