Because of a near monopoly at airports, the exchange rates are legalized larceny, truly outrageous.  And customers discover that apart from being fleeced by distorted exchange rates, they have to pay a commission.  If they are to exchange a modest amount of cash, this commission often represents an unethically high percentage of the exchanged money.

The few exchange counters at airports almost invariably offer identical rates.  This is an effective restraint of trade which  is firmly not allowed in other areas.  Alfred Taubman, the chairman of Sothebys, went to prison for a restraint of trade that was far less damaging to the public.

The effective restraint of trade at airports is reinforced by the lack of genuinely independent ATMs, which airline passengers could use to get foreign currency at fair prices.  It would be a simple matter to ensure that useful ATMs were available at airports.

The spreads between the buying and selling price of currencies indicate the profits that the exchange counters must be making. In March 2013, the difference (at all the counters at Manchester Airport) between the buying and selling price of the Euro was 1.35 to 1.06.  This excluded the high commission rate on any modest transactions.  In October 2013 all the counters were offering 9.21 Egyptian pounds for one Pound Sterling.  And yet in Egypt, it was very easy to get more than 10.6.   It is to be expected that travellers might not get the best rate at airports, but this disparity is too extreme.

The rapacity of exchange counters in all our airports is a great national disgrace and shame, reinforcing the image of ‘rip-off Britain.

Print Friendly and PDF