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'Losing out in a big way'

Brits spend a billion pounds a year on exchanging money for their holidays, and are 'losing out in a big way' according to one watchdog.

'Dubious and complex charges' applied when consumers use bank cards overseas or buy foreign money are rife. Consumer Focus wants the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate. Its chief executive Mike O'Connor said: "In practice, the exchange rates already include mark-ups levied by suppliers and so are not fee-free as '0pc commission' implies.

'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.'

They are also lobbying for a simplification of overseas card charges. 'Greater disclosure alone may not help consumers - the current raft of charges are so complex that they may not be understood by customers even if transparency is increased' Mr O'Connor added.

Andrew Hagger of Moneynet said: 'I hope the OFT grabs this opportunity to thoroughly examine the costs and profit margins associated with travel money transactions and pushes providers hard for a cheaper and more transparent service for the customer.'

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