AMBUSHED at the pumps! ... Hidden charges hit motorists at some gas stations
Some gas stations on the island have been engaged in the practice of slapping additional charges on customers who do not pay for petrol with cash, and they are doing so without informing the consumers. Motorists who use debit and credit cards at some stations are being ambushed as they are unknowingly charged either a flat fee of $10, or in some instances, up to three per cent of the total purchase.
Leonard Green, president of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA), said the failure to include the charges to use cards in the displayed price is dishonest.
"What they are doing is wrong and it is deceptive," Green told The Gleaner.
"You drive in because you see a price displayed and you are basically living off your credit card or debit card, and then you realise that you have to pay a different price."
At one station in Portmore, St Catherine, there is no warning to motorists that there is a $10 charge for persons paying with debit cards and a three per cent charge to use credit cards; however, a pump attendant made the disclosure after being questioned. A supervisor at the station argued that the additional charge for the use of cards was for two obvious reasons.
"One of the reasons is we only make three per cent on gas, and if you swipe the credit card, the bank charges us three per cent, and that doesn't make any sense," said the supervisor, who did not give his name.
"Remember, gas is a thing where the higher your prices go, people go to other places and buy gas. We have a culture of selling low gas, and that is what we are maintaining. If you want to run your card, that is just the condition," added the supervisor when asked why the charges were not included in the petrol prices quoted.
In neighbouring Spanish Town, one service station warned motorists that there was a cost for paying with cards.
"With our low prices, we are unable to absorb the bank charges associated with card transactions. Hence, for a credit card or a Visa Debit card, we recommend you use the ABM located to the left of the entrance. Any transactions using credit cards or Visa Debit cards to purchase fuel or other products will increase the purchase price of the transaction by three per cent.
"Fifteen dollars will be added to any transaction that includes the purchase of fuel or other products using Multi-Link/debit cards," warned the service station.
Green, decrying the practice, described the action of these gas stations as deceptive.
"All these things are a manifestation of the state of the market, and we (JGRA) don't agree with it because it is an unfair pricing practice," said Green.
"From the moment they say if you use the card they are going to increase the price, it is in breach of the merchant agreement," said Green.
He said the two service stations identified by The Gleaner are not members of the JGRA and operate as wholesalers and marketers.
"If they were my members, what I would have advised them is that on the board where the prices are displayed, they put cash only, and that would solve the problem," said Green.
"But these are people who come into the market. They are trying to secure volume and they are using price to fight the market. It is not a matter of service. So what is manifesting is not the best standard of operations uniform across the marketing companies."
According to Green, while the JGRA, which was formed in 1951, supports local marketing companies, it cannot condone some of their practices.
"You have some radicals in the mix as all marketing companies do not operate at the same standards. And so we have quite a number of issues that have emerged over the last couple of years in terms of quality of equipment and standard of service," Green said.