M&S introduced contactless payment terminals in its 644 UK stores in May allowing customers to make card payments without using their PIN. M&S report the terminals have been widely welcomed by customers, however one or two have come a cropper to the new technology.
Contactless payments are made by waving your contactless payment card near to a contactless payment terminal. At close range the payment terminal reads the card details using a technology called NCF, and the transaction is processed without the need for the customer to enter their PIN. The advantage is speed and efficiency for both customers and retailers and in the UK the limit for contactless payments is currently £20.
Many card issuers now issue contactless cards as standard with HSBC, RBS, Lloyds, Natwest, Halifax and Barclays all issuing contactless cards. Many customers are not aware they have a contactless card and that contributed towards one of the recent mishaps at M&S.
Nature of the Problems
The problems that have been reported all relate to customers unknowingly being charged on a contactless card. In other words, they prepared to pay and in some cases did pay with one card but were unknowingly charged on a contactless card they had about their person. For instance one customer at a London store was charged on a contactless HSBC card she was holding then also paid on her Natwest card and only realised she had been charged twice when reviewing her statement.
Contactless terminals can only read card details from around 5cm from the terminal, however a card to the side of the terminal may be read in error. The banking industry body UK Cards admits the system needs to be improved and points out this is only the first iteration of the technology. Considering M&S have implemented a wide scale roll out of contactless terminals very few problems have been reported by M&S customers.