Contactless cards charged by mistake at M&S

Marks and Spencer

Radio 4's Moneybox programme has revealed that Marks and Spencer has accidentally taken payments from contactless cards that were not being used for payment. The terminals are only supposed to charge cards that are within 5cm of the terminal, but customers have claimed their cards were further away.

So what has happened, and are you at risk?


The contactless terminals are in 644 of the chain's shops in the UK, and can be used for all transactions under £20. The terminals detect contactless cards that are within 5 cm range, and deduct the sum from that card - without the card having to be inserted into the terminal - or even removed from your wallet.

Some shoppers have contacted Moneybox saying that money had been debited from their card accidentally. One shopper had put her debit card in the device, when the terminal automatically debited a separate card, which was in the wallet in her other hand at the time. She said that her wallet was further than 5cm away from the terminal.

She added that a manager was called, who asked her to repeat the transaction. The same thing happened again, and he refunded both payments.

Another customer had the same thing happen to her, but she didn't spot the error. She entered the PIN on the card in the reader, and ended up paying for her shopping twice. She received a refund when she took her statement into a store.

A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: "We've had an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers following the introduction of Contactless which helps make payments quicker and more efficient for transactions under £20. We've tested the system extensively and it is robust and fit for purpose."

A spokesperson told AOL that the cards are used for over 250,000 transactions for under £20 every week, and that in the last six months they had received five complaints, and refunded the money where any double payments were made. He added that the store would like to hear from any customer who had encountered this sort of thing.

UK Cards Association spokesperson said in a statement: "It is always disappointing to hear that customers have had problems making card payments. However, these problems are exceptionally rare, with only a handful of cases reported where the wrong card has debited when accidentally placed very close to a contactless card reader. Over 125 contactless card transaction are made every minute in the UK. The technology is extremely robust, has been thoroughly tested and is working as expected. Payments can only take place where the card is placed within 5 cm (2 inches) of the terminal ."

Are you at risk?

It means that it may be worth making sure that you check through your statements carefully to ensure that there's nothing unexpected, or any double payments. If you find something awry, taking the statement into a store should resolve the issue, as all double-payments so far have been refunded without question.

It's not just Marks and Spencer, it's also worth checking statements for unexpected payments to any retailer that uses the technology - including Transport for London and Pret a Manger.

If you run up against any issues when asking for a refund, contact your card issuer, who will be able to refund the money.

There are 32.5 million cards in the UK with contactless technology embedded in them, and 147,000 terminals equipped to take money in this way.

The UK Cards Association believes that this is the future of payments. It says that over time it expects the maximum spending limits to be raised above £20, and for all mobile phones to be enabled for payments in future.

It means it's even more vital that the technology is robust and secure, and that we all understand how to use it, so we won't run the risk of accidentally paying twice in the store. The spokesperson added: "The UK Cards Association will be looking at ways to increase awareness that customers should be careful not to place wallets containing other cards close to readers when paying."

Seven of the craziest supermarket glitches
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Contactless cards charged by mistake at M&S

One of the most popular glitches, was a wine deal at Tesco back in November 2012, where a series of offers clashed, leaving a bottle of £9.99 wine selling for £1.50.

The 'three wines for £10' deal apparently clashed with a '25% off when you buy six or more bottles' deal. The 25% was accidentally taken off the original price rather than the reduced one, leaving the wine at rock bottom prices. Deal-hunters cleared the shelves around the country.

Perhaps the most popular glitch from Tesco came in June 2011, when instead of taking £4 off the cost of a £20 case of beer, the supermarket accidentally started selling the cases for £4. The ensuring rush was nicknamed the 'beer stampede'.

Sadly not every supermarket pricing glitch comes with such a happy ending for consumers. In March last year the bargain-hunters thought their luck was in, when Tesco accidentally priced the new iPad at just £44.99 instead of around £650. Sadly it spotted the mistake before shipping the goods. The small print on its website meant it could refuse to sell at this price, and refund their customers instead.

In September 2012, Asda was responsible for one of the most expensive glitches. The Asda Price Guarantee offered vouchers to customers who could have got their shopping cheaper elsewhere.

However, when certain trigger products were in the basket, the supermarket massively under-priced the shopping at other supermarkets, and offered huge vouchers to shoppers. In many instances the vouchers came to roughly the same as the cost of the shopping.

In April, a mistake on their website resulted in Tesco selling 8 packs of Bulmers cider 568ml bottles for £5 - rather than a six pack for £8.

Deal-hunters snapped up the deal online, and had varying degrees of success. Some had their order delivered in full, others had six delivered for £5 - and were able to negotiate their way to another two, while others were offered six for £5 or their money back.

October last year saw one of the most famous glitches, when Tesco Terry's Chocolate Oranges were subject to two deals at the same time, and the price dropped from £2.75 to 29p. There were plenty of people getting chocolate oranges last Christmas.

A buy-one-get-one-free deal went awry at Tesco in March. People putting four tubs of I can't Believe It's Not Butter or Oykos yogurt packs into the trolley were only being charged for one.

Soon the online deal-hunting community was in action, with one person bagging 50 tubs of butter and 22 pots of yogurt for £8.79 - a saving of £133.89.


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