CONSUMERS are set for a small victory over rip-off retailers who charge high rates for credit and debit card transactions.
The Government is to target controversial handling charges imposed on cards when consumers shop online for items like airline or concert tickets.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton plans to introduce new legislation early this year to crackdown on the contentious charges on foot of an EU consumer directive.
The European Commission, EU governments and consumer groups have expressed concern that handling fees, like those imposed by Ryanair and Aer Lingus for airline tickets, have increased substantially in the last few years, despite a lack of evidence that the cost of processing the card payments has risen significantly.
Examples include Ryanair's administration fee, which has jumped from €2.50 in 2006 to €6 today, while the Aer Lingus charge for handling credit card payments was €3 in 2008 compared with €6 now.
Mr Bruton's plans to introduce the measures have missed their original deadline.
He promised last year that measures to improve consumer rights regarding fees imposed for the use of cards would be in place by the end of 2012.
His Department had been forced to seek further legal advice from the European Commission and the Attorney General as a result of an issue which emerged during a consultation process last Autumn, a department spokesman said.
It is understood credit card companies made last minute efforts to have some of the proposed measures changed at both national and EU level.
It's not clear yet when consumers will get legislative protection against the charges as an EU directive on the issue does not have to be applied until June 2014. But Mr Bruton intends to introduce such legislation early in 2013, the spokesman said.
The Consumers Association of Ireland said the proposed changes were "critically important" due to continuing growth in online shopping.
"Handling charges were often used as a licence to print money which caused immense frustration for consumers," chief executive Dermot Jewell said.
Government officials say average service charge for small businesses in Ireland for credit card transactions is between 1.5pc and 2.5pc of the total charge and 15c-50c for Laser and debit cards.
See page 16