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‘Unexpected’ fee stinging online shoppers

If you've received a fee like this, you should take it up with your bank. Images: Getty

Australian online shoppers have been warned to look out for sneaky international transaction fees, even when buying items in Australian dollars. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said websites with a ‘.com.au’ domain name may still process transactions overseas, meaning shoppers can be slugged an international transaction fee for purchases made in Australian dollars. 

The competition watchdog said shops that make out that the transaction is processed in Australia before charging an international transaction fee may be engaging in deceptive conduct. 

“It is unclear to many consumers whether a retailer processes transactions overseas, so we expect retailers to make this clear to consumers on their websites,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Consumers who have been charged an unexpected international transaction fee for a purchase in Australian dollars from a website that appears Australian-based or has an Australian domain name should query the fee with their bank and report it to the ACCC.”

The ACCC recently took action against Nike Inc so that it made clear on its website that customers may be charged an international transaction fee. 

“If you are making regular purchases with overseas businesses, it may be worth considering a credit or debit card with no international transaction fees or asking your bank to block international transactions for certain cards,” Sims added. 

The ACCC last year released its inquiry into foreign currency conversion services, naming these fees a major problem for consumers. 

In one example, a customer purchased air tickets and was invoiced in Australian dollars and paid in Australian dollars. “The [bank] charged me $38.43 in foreign currency conversion fees which I fail to see how they can justify, given it was billed and paid for in AUD,” the shopper said. 

Another person paid for a cruise holiday in Australian dollars with a credit card. 

“We asked whether there were any fees payable; we were advised there were not. On receiving our bank statements [from bank 1 and bank 2] there was a 3 per cent charge levied,” they said. 

And in one other case, one person paid for a professional education course to be delivered in Australia by an Australian company who issued an invoice in Australian dollars.

“I had no expectation that this purchase would attract a foreign currency fee. It seemed to be a transaction conducted entirely within Australian and in Australian Dollars. However, when the transaction appeared on my [bank] credit card statement, a “Foreign Fee AUD 52.63” had been added to the AUD purchase amount.”

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