Contactless horror: we're being overcharged

Woman on the beach making contactless credit card payment   ++++ Note for the inspector: Credit card is fake ++++

New research has revealed that we're more likely to be overcharged in shops when we pay using contactless technology than any other way. What's more – we're less likely to spot it too.

The study, by PaymentSense found that overcharging was rife. Some 53% have been overcharged when using contactless payments, 51% when using a credit card, 49% when paying with a debit card, and 41% when using cash. Supermarkets are the worst for overcharging – with two thirds of people saying they have been charged too much when their groceries were put through the till.

The problem is worse in some parts of the country. Some 58% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland revealed they had been overcharged, with 83% of these cases related to buying food. Meanwhile one in four people in London, Wales and the north east say they have been overcharged when paying for alcohol.

Do you notice?

However, that's just the overcharging that we notice. A third of us forget to check how much we're being charged when we pay using contactless technology, and only 15% request a receipt, so there's every chance that we're being overcharged far more without noticing it.

There's a small chance we check our bank statements a few days after making the payment, but only one in four of us recognise all the transactions on our bank statements – so we're likely to be in the dark unless something particularly striking goes awry.


PaymentSense set up an experiment in central London, using a pop-up coffee stall, to see how good we were at spotting it. They accepted contactless payments, but deliberately typed the wrong amount into the card payment machine each time. When people paid by cash, they gave them too much or too little change.

To start with, they overcharged – in some cases they charged £28 for a £2.80 coffee. Only two people instantly spotted they had been overcharged. One woman had checked her change and another had checked her banking app. Next they undercharged, and nobody returned to report a mistake.

The fact that we don't get any paperwork for our purchases throws us into another issue when we want to take things back. If we used contactless payment, we have no proof of purchase, which makes it nigh on impossible to get a refund.

But what do you think? Do you check what you have been charged? And do you ask for a receipt? Let us know in the comments.

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