Fees that simply aren’t fair

by Darwin on August 4, 2011

For most people, everyday life is expensive enough, so being hit with unexpected charges is a unwelcome surprise that can tip the carefully balanced household finances.

An increasing number of homes opt to use comparison websites, such as money supermarket in an effort to make their dollars stretch further, so being sidelined with an unexpected bill can be a real bugbear.

One of the least popular types of hidden charges are those which are levied for baggage on airplanes. Some firms are more generous than others, but some sting passengers for an extra $15-25 for the first bag on top of the price of their ticket, with a further $25-35 for each additional piece of luggage.

Research has shown that passengers resent paying the luggage charges so much, they would rather pay out more money and buy clothes at their destination than hand more money over to the airline carrier for no reason.

Another area where extra charges are often lumped on top is medical bills, although it is not always apparent that additional costs have been added.

Unless you request an itemized bill, it can be difficult to know how the hospital has reached the total, but requesting a detailed breakdown can bring shocking results.

Medical jargon can be baffling and seeing items lodged on the invoice such as a ‘mucous recovery system’ which cost $12 and a ‘thermal therapy kit’ for which $30 was charged may not seem unreasonable.

However, when you find out these two entries do not refer to complex medical facilities but a simple box of tissues and a bag of ice-cubes, the costs seem extortionate. Eeven for those with insurance, a deductible and sometimes a co-payment too, has to be paid, meaning that indirectly, the patient will also be paying their share.

A recent way to run up a huge bill without realizing is by the innocent mobile phone being a little too smart for its own good. There have been numerous accounts of users who have incurred whopping bills running into hundreds and hundreds of dollars as their smartphones have switched to a roaming account without warning, a facility which is very expensive to use.

A number of mobile phone customers have complained that there is no cap on their bill and no warning that the roaming facility is enabled.

So if you are left facing a large bill, what is the best course of action?

First of all, you should never just accept unexpected charges if you believe they are unfair. Asking for a detailed breakdown of how the total has been arrived at and requesting to see the documentation which provides the biller with the licence to charge for the individual items is often a good idea.

Many organizations have a private policy of levying the charges on an invoice but waiving them if challenged, as they know they are not fair or enforceable.

However, if you have no choice but to pay the fees and cannot afford to pay them in one lump sum, there are several options that can be considered.

It could be worth asking the provider if you are able to repay the money in instalments. Many firms will simply be so happy to be getting their money back that they will be more than inclined to listen to any reasonable offers.

The other alternative is taking out a low-interest rate credit card, or even better, a zero % on purchases card, of which there are many about right now. This means that there is no immediate financial hardship and no negative entry in the credit file, but equally, you are not having to repay extortionate levels of interest, thereby extending the debt.

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