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My Currency Exchange Nightmare

By Mr Grumpy - Sun 30th Aug 2009

A couple of years back, in my wilder and more Niave days, I sufferred a completely avoidable nightmare when undertaking a currency exchange.

It was perhaps my 4th or 5th such exchange that I had done as a staged payment in buying a property and this was to be the largest and final of the payments.

Everything proceeded as normal, as did the transfers before it. I called up my broker to agree a rate, signed the documents and reserved the agreed fee on the understanding that the transfer would take place within the following 4 weeks. This ensured that I had peace of mind that if the exchange rate should plummet I would be protected as long as I could transfer the funds to them in the agreed time.

I logged onto to my on-line saver account a week or so before the agreed deadline to transfer the funds to my brokers account as I had done with the previous transfers and received a message on the computer screen (which was also e mailed to me) thanking me for my business and confirming that my instructions were being carried out.

Great, job done !

After a couple of days I called my broker to advise them that I had made the transfer and asked them to confirm receipt of thefunds and let me know when I could expect the euros to be deposited in my account in Spain. They advised me that the funds had not yet arrived, but undertsood that in some cases a transfer could take 3 Working days, which although was sailing close to our agreed deadline, should just make it in time. I logged into my On-line sterling account and noticed that the deduction had not been made from my account, which sent alarm bells ringing. By this time it was past close of play for another UK working day.

Calling back the next morning I was informed by my bank that I had made no such transfer I had, they said, entered my account and started to make a transfer but not actually confirmed the request for a transfer, and as such one had not been made. There had apparently been a change of proceedure to their systems to help the client avoid making any mistakes and as such they had put a saftey net in place asking the client to confirm all transactions before the bank actually proceeded with any instructions.

Ok, I said, let's just get the transfer made to my broker ASAP, as the funds are required in their account in the next 48 Hours, or I stand to lose a 10% holding deposit on the transfer that I agreed not to mention having to book the currency trade again at an unfavourable rate !

The bank informed me that there was insufficient time to guarantee that this could be done..

In short I lost my 10% deposit in full and had to make the transfer again at a rate of 1.36 as opposed to the 1.42 rate that I had previously booked in good time !

I felt that I had a strong case for complaint against my Bank - for one they had made a significant change to their banking proceedures without making it clear, but most importantly, why had they e-mailed me to inform me that my Intructions were being undertaken did that not suggest that the transfer was being carried out ?

The Customer services representative, or whatever title they award themselves these days, assured me that they had not displayed any such message on the screen - let alone sent me an e mail, however, given that I had printed a copy off for my own records I was able to e mail a scan over and also advise them their unique confrmation code.

In short, after much time and phone calls, and threats to talk to the banking ombudsman, I was lucky enough to receive my money refunded back to my account.

The moral of the Story ? - If you agree with your broker that you will make a transfer by a given date then it is your reponsibility to ensure that this is done. Generally the Broker will bulk book a good rate for a huge sum in advance with the Bank of England and your transfer will be just a small part of this. If for any reason you can not proceed with the transfer then they will incur penalties which have to passed over to you. In my case a third party (My Savings Bank) badly let me down don't let it happen to you !

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