If you’ve spent time walking around central Prague over the past decades, you’ve probably spotted this scene: a tourist who has just been ripped off at an exchange office demands their money back, to little avail.
It’s (still) one of the biggest scams in Prague: exchange offices who advertise no commission and good rates, but really shell out far less than advertised. Because of the fine print – that good rate was only for unusually large exchanges, for example – the average tourist walks away with around half of what they should have got, with little recourse.
Prague’s Honest Guide YouTube channel – by Janek Rubeš a Honza Mikulka – has rallied against ripoff exchange offices for years. Last year, they even managed to get one of the worst offenders, a prime location right on Old Town Square, closed for good.
Still, there’s no shortage of other shady exchange offices throughout central Prague that prey on uninformed tourists every day.
But now, thanks in part to Honest Guide’s efforts, those tourists have some recourse.
Earlier this year, an amendment to the Czech law governing foreign exchange offices was signed, and from this April, it has taken effect. The new amendment significantly increases consumers’ rights when dealing with exchange offices in Prague and throughout the rest of the Czech Republic.
The new amendment prohibits both commission fees for cash exchanges, and the promotion of “special” rates, in order to ensure a what-you-see-is-what-you-get environment.
But perhaps most importantly, the new amendment guarantees consumers a window for getting a refund. If a customer is unhappy with the amount of money they have received, they now have a legally-mandated three-hour window to get their money back, no questions asked.
Along with every transaction, customers must also be given a receipt, in Czech and English, which informs them of their rights including the three-hour window for a return. If a customer is not given the receipt with their rights listed, the three-hour window becomes six months.
When a refund is requested, the exchange office is also able to offer the customer a better rate.
The receipt is not required to be presented in order to obtain a refund, and only amounts up to 1,000 Euro will be covered, to prevent currency speculation.
While the law took place April 1 (and no, it’s no joke), Prague’s notorious exchange offices have some catching up to do.
Last week, iDnes.cz reporter Matěj Smlsal went undercover as an English-speaking tourist to see just how successful he would be when attempting to get a refund. Negotiations ensued at two of the three exchange offices he tried, with one getting heated:
Still, the third office, at Prague’s Wenceslas Square, did everything by the book. While Smlsal was originally given 18 crowns to the Euro, he was offered 25 crowns, about the official rate, when he returned for a refund.