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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Hidden charges when shopping

If you're shopping online or over the telephone, the price that you see on the label is sometimes not the total cost of your goods. Before you confirm your order, you need to know the costs that you may have to pay.

Booking fees

If you're buying tickets for a gig or cinema tickets over the phone or the internet, you'll often have a booking fee added to your bill. Booking fees pay for general administration costs like issuing and posting out tickets and the cost of running a computerised system.

Booking fee costs often vary, depending on what you're buying and where you're buying it from. For example, if you're buying tickets directly from the cinema, the booking fee is usually less than one pound.

But if you're buying tickets for an international sporting match or a sell-out concert, they're often issued through a ticket agency that charges extra for their services. Don't be surprised if you're charged five pounds or more per person when you're going to see a really top event.

When you're confirming your payment, make sure that you ask or find out how much the booking charge is per ticket. Two or three pounds may not sound like a lot, but if you're buying concert tickets for yourself and a group of mates, an extra £20 on top of what you were expecting to pay can come as a shock.

Postage and delivery

Buying goods over the internet can save you a lot of money, but it's important that you check whether the company you're ordering from adds an extra postage or delivery cost to your order.

Some companies do not charge at all. If they don't, it's likely that they'll make this very clear on their homepage as it will be one of their main selling points.

Companies that do add a delivery cost to your order can charge per item, per delivery or both. The actual amount that's added depends on the size of the item - so delivery for a couple of paperbacks probably won't be as much as it is for a new laptop.

Delivery charges are sometimes taken off if your order is over a certain amount, so if you want to save some money, it's a good idea to order things at the same time instead of buying them individually.

Customs charges

You may be buying goods from overseas, like DVDs that haven't been released yet in the UK. Depending on where they are from and their value, you may need to pay Customs Duty and/or VAT on top of the quoted purchase price.

If you are buying from abroad and you'd like to know how much you'll have to pay, contact HMRC's National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000 or visit the internet shopping web pages on the HMRC website. The helpline is open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm every weekday. It is closed during the weekend and on bank holidays.

You can also listen to an audio podcast from HMRC, which explains everything you need to be aware of when you're buying things from abroad.

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