Theresa May mocked for suggesting Tories to thank for credit card charge ban imposed by EU

Lizzy Buchan

Theresa May has been mocked for claiming credit for an EU policy to protect consumers from rip-off payment card charges.

Retailers, airlines and other businesses have been banned from hitting shoppers with hidden surcharges when they use credit or debit cards – sometimes as high as 20 per cent – which costs consumers around £166m each year.

MEPs criticised the Government for claiming responsibility for the move, which comes as part of a broad range of new payment regulations based on an EU–wide directive that was spearheaded by left-wing politicians in the European Parliament.

The Government must comply with EU directives until Britain leaves the bloc, although these changes will become part of UK law so will remain after Brexit.

The Prime Minister tweeted: "From today we're banning hidden charges for paying with your credit or debit card – a move that will help millions of people avoid rip-off fees when spending their hard-earned money."

The European Commission also tweeted praise for new "EU rules on payments", which aim to modernise rules for consumers and businesses.

Critics said the Conservatives had "nothing to do with" the idea and the move was an example of cooperation in Europe.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato told The Independent: "In spite of her rhetoric about fairness Theresa May is failing to give credit where it is due in suggesting that it is her government that is banning credit card charges.

"The truth is that it was my committee in the European Parliament that fought for and won the cap on credit card fees paid by many retailers which will mean lower charges for UK consumers. To achieve this we had to battle against national governments as well as the finance lobby.

"It’s also clear that it was the power of 500 million consumers that enabled us to put pressure on the credit card companies. Brexit Britain will be much weaker and its consumers more vulnerable to financial rip-offs."

Labour MEP Clare Moody also criticised the claims, addressing Ms May on Twitter: "No, you haven’t. This is an EU initiative from which all EU citizens will enjoy, not instigated by UK Government."

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “Once again the Tories are claiming a popular policy that they had nothing to do with."

“These new rules will make things easier, cheaper and more efficient for consumers. Once again EU rules are helping people in their everyday lives. Unfortunately this doesn’t match Theresa May’s spin so instead the Tories are lying to the public.

“This is a welcome change that gives more freedom and flexibility to people in their everyday lives.”

According the Treasury, the ban on credit and debit card surcharges is effective across the EU from Saturday, and will apply to all purchases made where the banks of the consumer and retailer are within the European Economic Area (EEA).

The UK Government has extended the ban to also cover other payment methods such as PayPal.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen said it was "completely unfair" for shoppers to face hidden fees and the move would give powers back to the consumer.

He added: "As we build a fairer society, this added transparency ensures buyers can make informed choices about how they spend their hard-earned money."