Pricing and payments
When you buy goods or services in the EU, you have to be clearly informed about the total price, including all taxes and additional charges.
For online purchases, you should explicitly acknowledge – for example by pressing a button – that you are aware that placing your order implies an obligation to pay.
If you want to make an online payment for more than €30, you will need to use a combination of at least two authentication elements, such as:
- something you have (such as your mobile phone or card reader) AND something you know (a PIN or a password)
- something you have (mobile phone or card reader) AND something you are (your fingerprint)
- something you know (a PIN or a password) AND something you are (your fingerprint)
This makes your payments safer and more secure.
Surcharges: fees for the use of cards
Traders in the EU are not allowed to charge you extra for using your credit or debit card. The only exceptions to this rule are American Express/Diners Club cards and business or corporate credit cards, where your employer is billed instead of you. If you use these cards, you may still be charged a fee but the fee can't be more than what it actually costs the trader to process your payment.
You should be aware that if you're paying in EU currencies other than euros, you may still be charged a currency conversion fee by your card provider when you use your card in another EU country.
‘Free’ online services
Free online services come at a cost – your personal data is valuable - this is why free web services and apps collect it. Under EU rules, you have a right to know how your personal data is being stored and used. You should also know the details of the contract such as the type of ‘free’ service you will receive, the contract duration, information about the right of withdrawal and the contract termination conditions.
According to EU rules, you have an explicit right to receive pre-contractual information and the 14-day right of withdrawal. Situations where you did not pay a price or fee, but provided the trader with personal data not directly necessary for the service are also covered (e.g. consent for collection of behavioural data for advertising purposes).
These consumer protection rights are in addition to personal data protection rules that regulate the collection and use of consumers’ personal data.
Don't give more data than needed
Daniel from France tried to search for an online tool to convert his PDF files into editable documents. He found a seemingly trustworthy application, but to complete the document conversion, he was asked to subscribe to the service by providing his email and all sorts of personal information. Since it was not clear what the subscription would entail, Daniel decided not to go through with it.
As a consumer, you have the right to get clear and comprehensible pre-contractual information about the service as well as the right to withdraw from any service within 14 days without any justification and any cost.
Charges for additional services
You must give your consent to any additional payment requested by the trader, for example express delivery, gift wrapping or travel insurance.
A trader is not allowed to charge you for these services unless you explicitly selected them. Using a pre-ticked box on the trader's website does not constitute consent, so you would be entitled to have any payment reimbursed which has been collected in that way.
Traders must tell you the full price (including taxes and charges) before you pay
Ewa from Poland bought some books from an online trader. However, her credit card was charged more than the final amount displayed at the point of sale on the trader's website. Ewa realised the company had not included delivery costs, and had only added this on after she had completed her purchase.
As EU rules oblige traders to display correct and complete pricing information before a customer makes a purchase online, Ewa reported this matter to both the company and the Polish authorities. After intervention by the authorities, she was refunded the difference.
Paying in another currency – conversion charges
When you buy a product or service that is priced in another currency, you pay more than just the purchase price. In the same way, when you take out cash from an automatic teller machine in another currency, you pay more than just the amount of the withdrawal. Extra costs may include:
- a foreign transaction fee charged by your bank or card provider (if you are not paying in euro or withdrawing euro)
- a currency conversion fee
- a fee charged by the owner of the ATM
When buying something in person or online, you might be offered the choice of paying in the local currency or in your home currency. If you pay in the local currency, you have to wait for your bank statement or credit card bill to find out how much the transaction cost in your home currency. This is often the cheapest option. If you pay in your home currency, you know immediately exactly how much you will be charged. The extra fees often make this option more expensive.
If a trader or website offers you the option to pay in your home currency, they must tell you exactly how much extra it will cost. They should express that cost as a percentage mark‑up over the latest exchange rates of the European Central Bank .
Example. A hotel gives you a choice between paying for your stay in the local currency or in your home currency. If you choose your home currency, the hotel should convert the amount of the bill using the ECB rate and inform you of the percentage of mark‑up it will add.
The website of your bank or card provider must also offer information on these types of charges. In any case, you always have the right to say no and make the payment in the local currency.
As an EU national or resident you can't be charged a higher price when buying products or services in the EU just because of your nationality or country of residence.
When you buy goods online in the EU, prices may vary from country to country or across different versions of the same website, for example due to differences in delivery costs. However, if you buy goods online without cross-border delivery – such as when you buy something online which you intend to collect from a trader or shop yourself – you should have access to the same prices and special offers as buyers living in that EU country. You cannot be charged more or prevented from buying something just because you live in another country.
The same rules apply when you buy services provided at the trader's premises, for example when you buy entry tickets for an amusement park, book a hotel, rent a car, or when you buy electronically supplied services (such as cloud services or website hosting), you are entitled to have access to the same prices as local buyers.
Copyright protected media, such as films, ebooks and music, are often covered by different licensing agreements in different countries. Therefore you may not always have access to the same products at the same price in all EU countries.
You can't be charged more just because of your country of residence
Hilda from Denmark wanted to book a hire car in Spain for her summer holidays. She chose the car she wanted to book on the website of a Spanish car rental company. However, when she entered her address to finalise the reservation, she saw that the total price for her car rental increased by EUR 140.
Hilda contacted her local European Consumer Centre to complain about this price discrimination. They helped her introduce a formal complaint, highlighting the discriminatory pricing on the car rental company's website. As the car company failed to comply with EU rules, they may be fined by the competent national authority.
Pricing rules for travel tickets
EU rules on pricing also apply when you buy travel tickets, such as flights or train tickets, either online or in person. This means that when you buy your tickets, all taxes, fees and charges must be included and appear in the total price from the beginning of the booking process. This makes it easier for you to compare prices with other travel operators.
Any optional supplements (such as travel insurance) must be clearly indicated as such and suggested only on an opt-in basis.
For the purchase of airline tickets, if you discover unclear online pricing when booking a flight, you can report it to the national authorities in your EU country of residence.
Automatic redirection on a website
Where several versions of a traders' website exist, you cannot be automatically redirected, unless you give your permission. For example, if you live in France and you choose directly to go to a .be website (Belgium), the trader can suggest that you might want to consult the .fr version of their website. However, unless you give your explicit permission for this redirection, you should have access to the .be website you originally selected.
You should also be able to change your choice at any time – for example, via a "choose country" box. This allows you to see the prices and promotions for products and services offered by the trader in other countries. However, you should always check a trader's terms and conditions to understand the delivery options and charges for your country.