Smart Consumer: I'm losing money to currency fluctations in online refunds -- what are my rights?
Mary contacted Smart Consumer about what she says is a "run of bad luck with ordering online".
"In one case," explains Mary, "the wrong product was sent out and when I was eventually refunded it was €14 short of the original amount. The explanation I got was because of currency fluctuations!
"With the second incident, I ordered from a company who seemed to be offering products for sale that they simply didn't stock. After waiting over three months, I eventually cancelled the order.
"After a wait of three weeks, I was recently refunded and the amount was €321 -- as opposed to the €335 deducted from my card three months ago.
"Help," exclaims Mary, "have I any rights?"
Sorry, Mary, I don't have good news for you. But I'm glad you brought up this topic as it's a situation many people won't be aware of.
The fact is that if you are buying from a UK or US web-trader, for example, at prices advertised in a different currency, on the day your purchase is processed your credit card will be debited the equivalent euro amount as per the exchange rate on that day.
Later on, if a refund is made, the trader will be issuing the refund for the same sterling or dollar amount paid. But the sting is that on the day the refund is processed, the currency conversion rate may indeed have changed, meaning once it's converted to euro and lands in your credit card, the euro amount may be different.
So the upshot is that in each of your cases the trader was acting in good faith but you were unlucky in that the currency conversion was not working in your favour.
Currency conversion can work both ways, of course, and at another time the euro amount refunded could work out to be slightly greater than the original amount.
Either way, this is something to bear in mind for anyone buying and cancelling from a non-euro website.