Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Beware TFL Contactless Payment overcharging with Credit Cards

Check your card statement very carefully if you use contactless payment on London Transport TFL instead of Oyster

Using a credit card to touch in and out and pay for journeys on the tube around London would seem like a much better payment method than using an Oyster card - which you have to apply for and top up in advance. 

Contactless credit and debit card payment is especially useful for infrequent travellers who would previously have paid much higher single fares.

Topping up an Oyster card also requires a stored balance, using a credit or debit contactless card means you truly do 'pay as you go' - no upfront contribution to the TFL coffers.

However the down side is you don't see any display on the card reader showing how much you have been charged when you pay this way. Also all the journeys in a single day are added together into a single charge on your card statement so you have no idea what you paid for each individual journey.

I just got my credit card statement for March. 28 days ago I was charged £10.80 on 30th March for journeys that should have cost a total of £5.60. I didn't discover this until my credit card statement arrived almost a month later.

Fortunately the day this journey took place I suspected something would go wrong with the payment so I registered my credit card on the TFL website in my Oyster profile.

The reason I suspected a problem was because although the customer leaving the exit barrier in front of me touched out there was a problem with his payment.

I had already touched my card on the reader and we both pushed through as the barriers opened. I was concerned about how I would be charged. If you don't touch out you pay a full fare and I couldn't be sure whose payment had registered to open the gates - his payment or mine.

So I spoke to a member of TFL staff who explained I should touch out again as I could not be charged twice.

I was dubious this would happen  so I registered my card online when I got home and thought nothing about it until the credit card statement arrived.

£10.80 as a daily charge exceeds the 
£8.80 daily fare cap for touching in and out

After looking at the statement I logged in to TFL to discover I had an incomplete journey alert in my account. But instead of recognising that my card had been charged twice less than 1 minute apart the system appeared to assume I had made another journey in the meantime (if only tube travel was so quick you could go anywhere within a single minute!) and was asking me where I should have touched in.

I filled out an online form to claim a refund from TFL, but it looked like what might happen would be that I would subsequently get charged for 3 journeys instead of the 2 I actually made that day.

Then I phoned my credit card provider MBNA. The agent was extremely unhelpful when I explained MBNA had accepted an incorrect charge on my behalf from TFL. They explained curtly that this retailer (TFL) had instructed them not to deal with any disputes but refer complainants to TFL.

This morning I phoned TFL. The agent saw the problem and agreed to refund the incorrectly registered incomplete journey fee of £5.20. But I was unhappy about this. TFL could have contacted me by email or phone using data in my account, but no, they just billed my credit card an extra fee - exceeding the daily maximum charge.

I pushed the point. 

  • The member of staff at Oxford Circus was incorrect when they advised me to touch out again. The agent explained you are charged every time you touch the reader.

  • TFL should have realised I could not have made a fresh journey inside a one minute interval.

  • TFL should correct these errors - other credit card users who don't register their cards online may never spot the error.

The agent said this was a unique situation, normally errors were automatically corrected before charges are applied.

I responded I very much doubted this experience was 'unique' and had only happened once on planet earth with millions of users every day. He agreed it was not 'unique' but only happened a few times a day. 

That's a lot of extra revenue taken from customers who have been overcharged. 

TFL should be proactive and refund customers - not wait for them to notice.

TFL should warn customers of other contactless payment problems - not just the danger of card clash (touching more than one card near the reader may result in multiple charges).

The agent did agree to refund me £10 for the trouble their mistakes caused me.

I won't be using credit cards to pay now but will revert to topping up an Oyster card - that way my contract is direct with TFL not via a credit card company, and I can verify the charge for journeys on screen as I touch out.

Here are TFL's help pages for disputed credit card incomplete journey charges:

Belvoir Fruit Farms Ginger Cordial - 'new fiery recipe' disaster

'New Fiery Recipe' Belvoir Farms Ginger Cordial 
and the old 'makes 10 pints'  version side by side

In our household we used to love Belvoir Farms Ginger cordial. Mixed with sparkling mineral water (and ice) it was a delicious, refreshing old fashioned tasting ginger beer-like drink.

Belvoir Ginger cordial was hard to get hold of - only the larger branches of Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda stocked it. It was so popular among die-hard aficionados that there was often just a vacant gap on the shelf where it should have stood.

So eventually I took to ordering in bulk from Ocado whenever it was on offer. Last night I noticed Ocado was price matching Tesco at 2 bottles for £5 so I ordered the maximum 20 bottles that Ocado would allow. The delivery arrived super promptly at 9 am this morning.

I noticed immediately something was wrong. In fact at first I thought I may have ordered a ready to drink variety rather than the concentrate - because the liquid was clear, not cloudy like the 'old version'. 

I grabbed a bottle of the old one and me and the delivery driver looked at them side by side. 'Same label' the driver said. 'Yes it is' I agreed. So on that basis I took delivery of 20 bottles.

When the driver left I peered at the bottle, well bottles actually, rather more thoroughly. It didn't look good. On the neck label was the tiny legend ' new fiery recipe' where it used to say 'makes 10 pints'.

I decided the drink might taste the same, even though it looked so different. I mixed up 2 glasses - both with sparkling mineral water and ice. As I feared the 'new fiery recipe' version was clear next to the pleasingly cloudy old 'makes 10 pints' version.

I sipped nervously the new drink. Nasty. sharp, watery, lemony, with a tingling burning sensation on the tongue and an acidic after taste. 

Then a sip of the old version. Aah, chalk and cheese, smooth, with real body and a great ginger taste.

I read the ingredients label. I didn't like what I read.

New 'fiery recipe' version
Sugar, water, fresh root ginger infusion 20%, lemon juice (from concentrate) ginger extracts 1%, citric acid, lemon extract, capsicum extract.

Old 'makes 10 pints' version
water, glucose syrup, sugar, lemon juice 10% (from concentrate) fresh ginger extract 8%, concentrated ginger extract 2%.

Yes - completely different 
Look again at the tiny neck label - 'new fiery recipe'

Now I knew I would have to send back 20 bottles to Ocado. I couldn't drink this - and I'd just spent fifty quid on a supply for the whole summer.

Before I arranged to send it back I thought I'd better check this wasn't a faulty batch. I looked up Belvoir Fruit Farms online. I started filling in their web form, but then as it didn't seem to promise much help I phoned them. 

Why has Belvoir Fruit Farm changed the Ginger Cordial recipe?

The automated options certainly do make Belvoir sound like a farm rather than a huge multi-national drinks producer. So when my call defaulted to 'switchboard' I wasn't surprised. I asked if they had a consumer department for customer queries. 'What's it about?' the operator asked. 'The ginger cordial' I replied. There was the slightest hint of recognition as to why I might be phoning. "i'll put you through to Barbara'.

Barbara came on the phone instantly. I explained about how we loved their Ginger cordial, but now I'd got 20 new bottles and they looked all wrong. 'Perhaps I have a faulty batch?' I said optimistically. 

'Has the bottle got a new recipe label on the neck? asked Barbara. So this wasn't a faulty batch, this really was the 'new fiery recipe'.

Barbara went on to explain they had to change the recipe because the supplier of the ginger extract had ceased trading. So they'd had to formulate a new recipe, they'd added lemon juice to prevent the solids forming in the bottle (we liked those bits!). They'd had to change the ginger part, it wasn't a choice, it was out of their hands. There was no going back. Barbara was sounding a bit upset now. 

It seems I'm not the only disappointed former ginger cordial fan. There have been many more getting in touch. I said I felt Belvoir should have been clearer that this is a COMPLETELY NEW recipe. She reluctantly agreed perhaps they should have done something more 'all singing and dancing' than 'new fiery recipe' on the tiny neck label.

I pointed out that if you shop online you'd have no idea the label has changed (in fact Ocado still shows the old 'makes 10 pints'  neck label in their stock photo). Barbara said they didn't know when the new stock would land in each of the stores as they make it in bulk and send it out as and when the orders come in.

Oh well. Good customer service from Belvoir, they explained themselves, and they really are a small boutique type manufacturer - Cocoa Cola they are not (thankfully) at the mercy of other suppliers.

Ocado were even better and immediately offered to collect all 19 bottles (I sampled one remember) but they would refund me for 20. They also said they'd send a note to the website product team. 

I've added a review online on Ocado.com to warn other fans of Belvoir Ginger Cordial. Sadly it can never be the same drink again. First world problem I know. Meanwhile I'll be scouring the shelves for old stock - more like searching for rare wine than ginger cordial.