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It Is Not My Fault The Dollar Sucks
November 23, 2011 12:05 PM   Subscribe

International customer service/refund issue. Help me reconcile whose fault it is that I'm out $90.

I took a trip to Europe last summer and stayed in Rome for a week. I used booking.com to rent a nice apartment and we had an excellent time. The charge for the time we stayed at the apartment was 600 Euro.

When I got home from my trip, I noticed on my statement that I was charged the 600 Euro twice - once at the beginning of our stay and once at the end. Due to the fluctuating exchange rates, I was billed $877.01 and $889.53. The dates on the transaction are near the end of July.

I wrote the company immediately and they conceded that they had, in fact, double charged me. They were very apologetic and assured me that it'd be solved just as soon as everyone got back from their month-long vacation. This was shocking to me but I waited it out. During this waiting period (it was about 5 weeks in total), I contacted booking.com who also seemed interested in helping me resolve the issue.

After many emails back and forth and pressure from me, the apartment company refunded me 600 Euro. From July to September, the dollar apparently tanked and the refund posted to my credit card was $807.24.

I've emailed the hotel company and booking.com repeatedly to tell them that I'm still out almost $90 (or $70, depending on how you look at it) and no one cares. They've issued the 600 Euro refund and they are done with me.

I'm pretty certain I'm going to have to eat the un-refunded amount but am unclear on the law here and what -should- have been done. I contacted my credit card company and they denied my claim - the apartment company proved that they refunded the double charge.

Is there anything else I can do?
posted by shew to Work & Money (13 answers total)
 
You were dealing in Euros. The booking company is not responsible for the tanking of the dollar.

It's frustrating, but they refunded you every Euro you paid them. Consider it an expensive lesson to never use them again.
posted by inturnaround at 12:11 PM on November 23, 2011


Yeah, I think, even though they were negligent in their timing of the refund, that the fact that they refunded you 600 euros means they are correct.

It sucks, but imagine you sold someone something on ebay for $100, and after shipping back and forth when they returned it to you, they demanded $115 because of currency fluctuations. No way would that be your responsibility, since you had been dealing in USD the whole time.
posted by Grither at 12:20 PM on November 23, 2011


Yeah, the one month wait is what killed you. I have successfully argued with my credit carc companyto get refunded the exact same amount I was charged when I got a refund the next day (US purchases on a Canadian card), but after a month you're getting into more difficult territory

Next time, dispute the double transaction immediately. You can then probably argue with the credit card company to get the actual amount you were charged waived.
posted by jeather at 12:24 PM on November 23, 2011


After many emails back and forth and pressure from me, the apartment company refunded me 600 Euro. From July to September, the dollar apparently tanked and the refund posted to my credit card was $807.24.

Actually it's the Euro that tanked, you are getting less dollars per Euro back now which means Euros are worth less compared to the dollar than they were before. The problem is that they had your Euros and those Euros depreciated in value in terms of dollars.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:40 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I agree with the other comments here. The company originally double-charged you, which is something they should not have done. (In other words, this isn't a case of you changing your mind and returning an item you purchased.) In this sense your transaction is different from Grither's example. In my opinion they should reimburse you for the entire amount you are out, in order to make up for what is, at best, an error on their part. But that's unfortunately just my opinion, not legal advice!
posted by smilingtiger at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2011


Try contacting your credit card company. It's probably too late, but they're about the only people who are going to be able to resolve this for you.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:56 PM on November 23, 2011


After many emails back and forth and pressure from me, the apartment company refunded me 600 Euro. From July to September, the dollar apparently tanked and the refund posted to my credit card was $807.24.

Actually it's the Euro that tanked, you are getting less dollars per Euro back now which means Euros are worth less compared to the dollar than they were before. The problem is that they had your Euros and those Euros depreciated in value in terms of dollars.


This. If the dollar had tanked, you would be getting back more dollars from the refund. Would you refund those extra dollars to the company? No, that would be weird and unreasonable.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:23 PM on November 23, 2011


I think they still owe you, but it will be hard to establish a fair amount, and to get paid. So. Do they have anything you want? Are you traveling again, and will you be using their services? Ask for a voucher or something.
posted by theora55 at 2:22 PM on November 23, 2011


To whom would you even go with your claim, if you had a valid one? I think you've exhausted all the options a sub hundred dollar amount is going to have.

But as far as I know (from working in customer service with international customers) you dealt them their money in their currency, you get it back in their currency. The fluctuation of the market doesn't pertain. While it would have been nice, given that it was their error and that they took a long time rectifying it, that they kick it in or offer you a voucher or something, they aren't (legally) obligated to do so. IANAL but that's been my experience.
posted by sm1tten at 2:28 PM on November 23, 2011


They took your money without permission, and it was their mistake, and now you are out money because they screwed up. They need to pay you the $90 or whatever. Talk to your credit card company, or if you know a lawyer you should have them send a letter.
posted by Slinga at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2011


IANAL, but it seems to me their legal obligation has been satisfied. The difference between that and your net loss is essentially damages, but you will have a difficult time with a small claims action in these circumstances.
posted by dhartung at 3:35 AM on November 24, 2011


The practical and legal sides of this, I cannot begin to help you with. If you want to pursue it, you need to talk to your lawyer and presumably to someone with expertise in international commercial law. I'm not your lawyer and I have no expertise in international commercial law, and neither before nor after I post this response will we have any kind of relationship you can rely on in any way.

As a purely *academic* question, though, it's an interesting one. Someone in an economics class might argue that what they took from you was equivalent to an option. They got the choice either to return the money immediately or to wait 30 days (or perhaps indefinitely?) to see if the exchange rate would fluctuate favorably. There are markets in such options, and in principle you could use those markets to try to estimate an appropriate price for what they got out of you. (I take it that that price would be somewhere between $0 and the full value of your loss, reflecting the fact that you could also have benefitted from the fluctuation.) Whether that approach would be practical, worthwhile, or legally enforceable are questions you will have to ask your lawyer, who is not me.
posted by foursentences at 2:56 PM on November 24, 2011


I know nothing about the legality of this specific situation, but I do work as an economic consultant for litigation, so II work on much larger scale cases that relate to issues like this.



I think the key issue here is that they had no right to the extra money. By forcing you to lend them that money they didn't have a right to, they would become responsible for the damages they cause you, not just the amount they gained by double charging you. (Or at least that is how it seems to have played out in most of the cases I have worked on. I have no expertise directly in the law).

Foursentences is right about how I think the argument would play out if who was at fault was less clear. i.e. if you were only able to pursue a "unjust enrichment" claim, instead of a "damages" claim.

As to how you could actually make a claim in international law, I have no idea.

I might come back to the Credit Card company and argue that the business had an obligation to refund the overcharge as soon as you notified them, so by waiting they are responsible for paying you the amount you would have been paid if they refunded you immediately.
posted by vegetableagony at 5:40 PM on December 7, 2011


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