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Merchants can charge card fees

Recently, I've noticed some of the merchants I do business with have added on a 2.5 percent surcharge to compensate for the fees they are charged for taking credit cards. Isn't this illegal? The last straw was for my vet, who charged me a fee for using a credit card. I thought if a merchant had a card agreement, they had to assume the costs of this agreement. Is there somewhere I could report this if it is illegal?

— E. McKeon, Ashland

Your pet's veterinarian is fully within the rights of both the law and Visa and MasterCard's merchant guidelines to charge you a fee, as long as it's as you described.

U.S. merchants can charge customers what they pay the card company for the credit card transaction, or up to 4 percent, whichever amount's lower. The fee can't be more than $10.

The rule is relatively recent. Merchants have been allowed to pass along to customers the fees they pay to process Visa and MasterCard credit card payments since Jan. 27, 2013, after the settlement of a multi-billion dollar class-action lawsuit.

Within a week of the settlement between a group of merchants and the two card behemoths, we ran a story with the headline "We don't do that here" in which we talked to local businesses who all said they wouldn't impose the allowed fees. We apparently should've checked with some area gas stations and your vet.

Most other countries still prohibit surcharges for card processing, with Australia and New Zealand being the notable exceptions.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.