Currency exchange 'complex and misleading' says Consumer Focus

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  • | by Kristian Dando
Consumer Focus has slammed what it has referred to as "complex charges and misleading information" regarding foreign currency, which it says is making British travellers paying over the odds for their holiday money. It has also submitted a rather serious-sounding ‘super complaint’ to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), a turn of events the banking industry is none-too-happy about. The organisation has expressed further concerns that holidaymakers are prevented from looking for a better deal, that charges for exchanging cash in the UK which don’t accurately reflect processing costs, and hidden mark-ups on deals which promise so-called ‘0 per cent commission’ rates. It has called for more simplification and greater transparency. Mike O'Connor, chief executive at Consumer Focus said: “Almost half of us travel abroad every year and we face a confusing array of often hidden charges every time we buy currency. Converting £500 into euros can cost from under £10 to over £30 depending on where you switch your money. This is a huge difference for essentially providing the same service and typically banks offer the worst deals. He continued: “If holiday makers buy their currency from the Post Office, travel agent or bureaux de change many are stung with cash withdrawal charges by their bank, effectively for the privilege of taking money out of their own accounts. Individuals buy holiday money infrequently and so may not shop around much or may just stick with the same supplier. A cocktail of confusing charges and poor transparency means collectively we are losing out in a big way. We are calling on the OFT to investigate and work with the industry to send these dubious and complex charges packing.” The OFT will now consider the issues raised in the super-complaint in order to establish whether or not any feature, or combination of features, in the relevant market is, or appears to be, significantly harming the interests of consumers.