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Purchasing in Australia yet incurring a foreign transaction fee

Spotify Australia charging in GBR and occur foreign transaction fee
Normally the transaction appears as ‘PAYPAL *SPOTIFY xxx AUS’ every month, however this month I see it appears as ‘PAYPAL *SPOTIFY xxx GBR’ and I’ve been charged an extra 53c foreign transaction fee. Anyone else had similar issue and resolved? I’ve looked at the Spotify community website and lots of others have had similar issues dating back to 2016. Seems initially Spotify tell you to talk to your bank, but I think that’s pointless as the issue is where Spotify are debiting the money from. 2nd solution is to delete subscription and create a new one…

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Hi @mcbodee, welcome to the forum.

Technically the bank is charging the foreign exchange transaction fee and not spotify. Most banks charge such fees when they exchange one currency into another.

However, one would expect that a company that is present in the Australian market, advertises to Australian consumers and also advertises its prices for the Premium subscription in Australian dollars, would charge its customers in Australian Dollars and not British pounds. It could be seen as deceptive or misleading advertising under the Australian consumer law if they are charging in GBR (GBP) when in fact their website indicates that the subscription fee is in dollars.

I would lodge a form complaint with Spotify and indicate that charging in GBR is misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer law and that you will be also lodging a complaint with the ACCC (with a copy of the website and information showing that you are being charged in GBR and not AUD as indicated by their website).

Maybe also post on the Spotify Community Forum website for other subscribers to do the same as the more that lodge complaints, the more likely they may change their practices.

It will be interesting to see their response, as well as that of the ACCC.

I also wonder why they charge in GBR? Is it to avoid paying Australian taxes for the services provided in Australia?

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The banks do not just have their (usually 3%) levy for transactions made in foreign currency, they also charge it for any transaction processed off shore regardless of currency.

Not sure what GBR references except ‘Great Britain’. The pound sterling would be GBP not GBR. Might have been a typo or the country processing the charge.

If a company changes their billing country that could trigger the change referenced. Many companies have been moving their billing to lower tax or legally preferred jurisdictions.

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I think previously we actually had a paypal.com.au site so anything we placed throught that was treated as Aus based. Recently paypal are just paypal.com but with a language/locale reference added to the address eg paypal.com/au/ or paypal.com/uk/. So the Bank will now be charging for a foreign transaction.

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We still do, but as with any business one cannot always see behind the curtains and an .au website is never a guarantee of anything being local.

This self serving competitors web site seems to present it well.

Then there can be the bank’s own fees in certain cases, eg if the payment is processed outside Australia.

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Bank transaction records:
spotify2

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PayPal transaction records:

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Depends what you mean by “guarantee”. Eligibility rules for e.g. .com.au do seek to provide some kind of guarantee of an Australian connection. I agree though that the real world is more complicated.

It could also be seen as misleading if they quote ‘$17.99’ and charge more than that !

However I believe that in this case the government needs to change the law to clarify how this overall situation must be handled.

We shouldn’t shy away from the globalisation of goods and services, but it must be done in a transparent manner so that the consumer knows up front what the true cost being agreed to is.

The fact that the price seems to have been correct for (at least) two months and then suddenly jumped by the foreign currency transaction fee looks very dodgy indeed.

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I believe based on the ‘AUS’ and ‘GBR’ notations on the bank record the processing has been relocated to the UK (GBR), hence it is an offshore fee of 3% rather than a currency fee, and that having been added by the bank, not Spotify or Paypal who probably did process it as $AUD17.99. Perhaps just a technicality, but an important one in context. This change of locale could have been done by Spotify changing their related business office rather than anything paypal did.

Contrary to the snip posted, on my rare ‘foreign’ charges on my (westpac) card there has always been a small notation above the line item that the total included X fees or charges. That would be a question to ask the bank as to how the $18.52 amount was derived from the $17.99 charge.

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Looks like it. Very dodgy though as the user signed up to and agreed to $17.99 a month.

Me too. May depend on bank? on card? Needs more investigation - perhaps another legitimate consumer issue here - since not only is Spotify not informing the consumer up front (as they ought to be obliged to), they aren’t informing the consumer retrospectively (although it is quite likely that that is outside Spotify’s control). (Update: never mind - user has clarified that the retrospective info is there.)

On the question of .au domains, spotify.com.au redirects to spotify.com/au - which looks like a grey area in the rules.

Looks like it i.e. ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes rather than ISO 4217 codes. :slight_smile:

That is consistent with AUS rather than AUD.

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The bank foreign transaction fee:
spotify3

As others have mentioned, I will contact the bank as hopefully it was their mistake as even the snippet above mentioned it was charged as AUD 17.99 so not sure why they have added a fee.

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No, it’s not a bank error.

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I first encountered the devious nature of .au domains from vistaprint.com.au when I got slugged for an overseas transaction. Their message has evolved slightly since, but

Our products are printed in the Netherlands and we run a state-of-the-art research centre in Switzerland to ensure our customers will continue to benefit from the latest technological innovations.

It is a Dutch company. The location for legal service is London. There is an Australian 800 number but no other ‘hook to Australia’ is evident. The media contacts are one in the US and one in Spain(?). None of it is hidden but they do not make clear they process billing ‘not here’, hence a few cents of surprise on the charge.

edit: a few posts passed whilst I was typing. @person’s link to the international transaction fees topic (below) will lead to the explanation @mcbodee seeks.

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See also International Transaction fees on AUD Transactions

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You will find that fee was added because it was processed offshore. That it was processed in $AUD is irrelevant. Fees and charges are but one reason our banks are so profitable.

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Getting a bit off topic but in this general situation it may be appropriate to complain about the domain to auDA.

You would be aware that a 1800 number (or any other type of Australian number) doesn’t mean much in a networked world. It could be terminating anywhere.

In this specific case vistaprint is claiming an Australian connection because they have an Australian Trade Mark. That is within the rules for .com.au and may itself be a grey area, since the average consumer will not know the rules or how to verify them, and this is not voluntarily disclosed to the consumer. (The same applies to spotify.com.au)

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I’m talking to Spotify and they don’t see any issue their end.

spotify_resp1

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Please have a read of the comments above, and the linked thread to the international transaction fee topic.

You do not have to like what you read, but it explains the particular charge your bank levied.

Your follow-up should be with Spotify and/or paypal to ask them why the point of processing your charge was apparently changed from AUS to GBR. I expect many of us here would like to know that, also.

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I’ve messaged Spotify, PayPal, and my bank for comment. I’ll keep you updated when I know more.

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Spotify’s response after requesting information regarding the location of the purchase location incurring the foreign transaction fee:

The foreign transaction fee is actually regulated by your bank themselves and the discretion about the additional fee is determined by them. Although Spotify’s main bank is situated in Ireland.

Further message:
Sorry, not Ireland but Sweden.
I would really love to answer your inquiry but I’m afraid only your bank will be able to confirm the transaction details on your bank statement.

PayPal and Spotify are both telling me to follow-up with my bank as they have only charged AUD$17.99 and no fee…

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