Thousands of shops have for years paid the rates for the electronic sales service EPS that have sparked threats of a boycott this week from some sectors of the trade, an industry chief said yesterday. Frank Lee King-ting, chairman of the 1,100-member Association of Better Business and Tourism Services, said he could understand why shops that had enjoyed preferential treatment were unhappy at losing it, but the bulk of retailers already paid the disputed rate. EPS Co, the company that runs the Easy Pay System allowing shoppers to pay for goods with their bank cards, this month began charging some outlets a commission of 0.75 per cent on every sale instead of a flat $2 per sale. Industry groups representing travel agents and jewellers, who say the change will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year that will have to be passed on to shoppers, have attacked the change as unethical and suggested a boycott. But Mr Lee said the adjustment would simply bring those traders into line with the rest of the retail business. 'For most retailers, they've been paying this 0.75 per cent rate anyway,' he said. 'I can understand that people who've been paying a lower rate will be worried about a big change, but I can also understand EPS trying to streamline things and make it all the same.' EPS Co general manager, Boniface Ip Chung-ling, said fewer than 300 of the 10,000 retailers using EPS were affected by the change. They had joined EPS under an old payment scheme offered in the 1980s. About 200 of them were jewellers and 27 were travel agents. The remainder were from a range of sectors. Some large retailers, such as Wellcome and ParknShop, do not pay the 0.75 per cent but have a confidential arrangement with EPS on charges, which have not changed this month. Mr Lee said shops had to weigh up whether the extra custom and convenience EPS brought them was worth the cost - which he said was lower than the two to four per cent charged by credit-card firms. 'Whether they increase prices [to cover EPS fees] depends on whether the customer would still buy something. Customers do have the final say if they will buy a certain product at a certain price.' The 500-member Federation of Hong Kong Chinese Travel Agents and the 180-strong Hong Kong Outbound Tour Operators' Association joined the Travel Industry Council and the Hong Kong Jewellers' and Goldsmiths' Association yesterday in objecting to the revised payment system.