Consumer group attacks EC bank charter

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - Europe's leading consumer organisation attacked the European Commission yesterday over a controversial charter intended to give consumers in the Community a better deal when they transfer money abroad, writes Tim Jackson.

BEUC, the Brussels-based European consumers' organisation, claimed that banks' foreign exchange operations are flouting both government recommendations and their own voluntary codes of conduct when changing money from one EC currency to another.

The group said two-thirds of banks and one-third of bureaux de change surveyed across the Community failed to display either exchange rates or commissions for changing travellers' cheques, while consumers were also kept uninformed on the real cost of changing money and buying goods in foreign currencies with credit cards.

Laura Mosca, the BEUC's chief economist, dismissed the User's Charter, published in March by Sir Leon Brittan, the EC's Competition Commissioner. She complained that the charter, intended to make European banks improve their cross-border service without legislation, imposed no legal obligations on the banks and gave consumers no means of enforcing it. 'Only binding measures can effectively remedy this situation,' she said.