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Overseas Shopping on Credit? Buyer Beware.

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On a trip to Izmir, Turkey last November, Kathy Worley spent nearly $3000 for a silk rug. At least she thought she was buying a silk rug.

After returning home, a conversation with a retired Turkish rug merchant led her to believe she may have been misled about the rug’s authenticity. “He said that a ‘Silk on Silk’ rug was many of thousands of dollars and recommended getting an appraisal,” said Worley. She did, only to learn it was a fake.

Upset, Worley emailed the merchant in Turkey, stating that she wanted to return the rug. The merchant didn’t respond.

Next, she enlisted the help of her credit card company. She disputed the purchase and was given a temporary credit. Over a month went by before she received a letter from her card issuer stating that the merchant was disputing the chargeback because the rug had not been returned. It cost Worley nearly $300 to send it back via FedEx, and the merchant refused to pick it up.

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Shortly after that, she received a letter from her card issuer stating:

…We are sorry that this is one of the few instances in which we cannot assist you. Please allow us the opportunity to explain more fully.

Due to the fact that this was a face-to-face transaction, you had the opportunity to inspect the merchandise before leaving the establishment with the purchased item. And since we have not been provided with a credit receipt or a valid second opinion or any documents stating that what was purchased differs from what was on the merchants invoice as requested; our further dispute rights have been negated. If you should continue to dispute the transaction, we can only suggest that you contact the merchant directly to obtain a favorable resolution.

We have rebilled your account for this amount. This charge adjustment will reflect on your next statement. Your understanding is appreciated.”

Not The First Time…

Worley reached out to us at Credit.com, asking for advice. Her situation immediately brought to mind another consumer I had helped years ago. He had purchased a “marble” statute in Italy. It was chipped during shipping, and he discovered it was really alabaster. He also got the runaround from his card issuer when he tried to dispute the charge, but we were eventually able to help him get a refund.

[Related Article: Traveling Abroad? You’ll Need These Credit Tips]

Free Credit Check & MonitoringHow? The consumer in question, just like Worley, had written documentation from the merchant describing the item in detail. When it turned out that the merchant had sold him something different than what he was told he was purchasing, he was able to exercise his rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) to assert a billing error.

The FCBA is a powerful federal law that gives consumers the right to dispute billing errors on credit card statements. It does not apply to debit or prepaid cards. Errors include:

A reflection on a statement of goods or services not accepted by the obligor or his designee or not delivered to the obligor or his designee in accordance with the agreement made at the time of a transaction.

Does that mean that as long as you purchase something using a credit card you’re guaranteed a refund? Not quite. Worley had received a certificate of origin and content from the merchant stating the rug was pure silk. Without that, it would be her word against theirs.

If you’re planning on buying an expensive item when traveling — especially from some place faraway where it may be difficult to return the item — you’ll want to take the following precautions …

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Protect Yourself When Overseas Shopping »

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