It was, of course, entirely outrageous that users of credit cards could be charged for using their credit cards. Quite unconscionable that people might voluntarily pay a fee for the convenience of a form of electronic payment, or the immediate ability to borrow money. No, absolutely we could not allow this to continue to happen, something must be done!
From January "rip off" fees charged to consumers by companies and government bodies when they pay by credit card will be completely banned in the UK.
The move was designed to help consumers by letting them pay by credit card free of charge.
Hmm, well, OK, so something was done then. Huzzah!
Except, well, except, it still costs someone, somewhere, something to maintain that network of cards, readers, machines, transfers, credit analysts and all the rest. That we've banned one method of paying for them hasn't made the costs disappear. The result is therefore:
But HMRC has said the move will force it to stop accepting credit cards altogether.
This because it is unable to absorb the cost of credit card fees as this would mean charging costs back to customers via the "public purse", therefore creating a burden for taxpayers.
Not charging the people who wish to use credit cards means that no one can use credit cards.
James Daley, director at Fairer Finance, said: "This is a very un-consumer friendly move by HMRC which restricts consumer choice. This is not what the Government intended to happen as a result of its fees crackdown.
It probably isn't what the government intended, no. It does seem to be what the government has done though, isn't it?
At which point we're reminded of Tony Blair on his sofa one day gaily pondering the office of Lord Chancellor. An anachronism, we should abolish it. Which was done, moments later people pointed out that what passes for the British constitution doesn't in fact work unless there is someone, somewhere, called the Lord Chancellor to hold it all together. Thus the post had to be recreated.
The underlying point being that payment systems, economies, socio-political systems, are complicated matters, things which cannot just be managed upon a whim. There are always, but always, second, third and fourth order effects. Thus it isn't possible to just tweak one bit in isolation - detailed planning and legislation of this kind just does not work.
Most certainly there are things what must be done, even that group - a small one but it exists - of things which both must be done and which only government can do. A very useful rule for a functioning society being to restrict government to that - small but extant - group and leave the rest of us to figure things out by ourselves.
You know, if I'm happy to have to pay the credit card company 2% of my tax bill for the convenience of being able to pay it why should the law forbid me from doing that?
Answers on a postcard to Stephen Barclay who as Economic Secretary to the Treasury pushed this through, building upon an EU directive concerning Mastercard and Visa to extend it to Amex and other cards.