An Australian businessman who was alarmed to find he had been charged $45,000 on his credit card after a couple of big nights out at two bars in Vietnam, has successfully challenged the massive bill.
The businessman, identified only as ‘Mr S’ in a ruling by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), had visited the bars Bottoms Up and Double Shots with a client in Ho Chi Minh City.
Mr S admitted he had spent $3,300 but argued the other $41,700 – including charges for no less than 1,400 tequila shots and several more drinks – were fabricated by the bars.
In his complaint to AFCA, Mr S said he was given handwritten bills for much smaller charges and had handed over his card to make the payment.
Staff told him he did not need to enter his PIN or sign for the amounts and they could not provide him with receipts because of issues with their payment system.
An Australian businessman has successfully challenged a $45,000 Amex bill racked up at Ho Chi Minh city bars (pictured is the interior of Double Shots)
Mr S only became aware of the staggering charges when he returned from the trip in September 2022 and found his American Express card was maxed out, prompting him to look through his statement.
According to AFCA, he initially disputed the charges directly with Amex who contacted the bars and were provided with signed and itemised records for the full $45,000.
Amex wrote to Mr S informing him they had reviewed the charges and ‘on the basis on information provided’ and their own investigation, were satisfied the amounts were ‘valid and correctly executed’.
But AFCA found each of the four invoices that made up the $45,000 in charges were simple Word files with the items listed in a table that was embedded in an email.
The businessman visited two bars Bottoms Up and Double Shots and the financial complaints authority found Amex should cover the amount as it was likely he didn’t rack up the bill
AFCA found the files could have been made by ‘anyone with basic computing skills’ and that the bars should have known what documents would be needed to prove purchases, as bill disputes are not uncommon.
The AFCA adjudicator said: ‘All four could have been (and I posit, were) created prior to the event, then a matching record of charge printed out for the exact total on each ‘invoice’ after bar staff had identified an unsuspecting card-holding ‘mark’.
‘A foreign tourist or businessman such as Mr S was the ideal target.’
Signatures provided with the documents were ‘scrawl’ and did not match each other or Mr S’s actual signature, AFCA said.
AFCA found under the ePayments code American Express was liable for the $41,700 that Mr S claimed he did not spend.
‘The available information supports a finding on the balance of probability that the disputed charges were made without Mr S’s knowledge or consent and were therefore unauthorised,’ the adjudicator said.