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Charge for credit card use is illegal

I've had a Visa credit card for a number of years and have never had a transaction like the following one. I went to a mini-mart to purchase a carton of cigarettes. I gave the owner my card, and he told me he had to charge me an additional $1.25 for using a credit card because it costs him so much to accept them, etc.

I've never heard of this. My receipt shows only the grand total. I think the store owner is pocketing the $1.25. Can he legally do this? I have never paid to use my card before. L. Zajick

Response: Florida Statute 501.0117 prohibits merchants from imposing a surcharge for the privilege of using a credit card to make payment. We suggest you call the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service at (800) 435-7352, although it may be difficult to prove since you said your receipt does not show the surcharge. Complaints can also be filed online at the department's Division of Consumer Services' Web site at http://800helpfla.com.

We also checked with Visa USA and learned that its bylaws prohibit merchants from charging surcharges. While you're by the phone, flip your card over and call the issuing bank's customer service number that is on the back and alert it to this incident.

If you have a question for Action, or your attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request for Action. Names will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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