Warning Issued About Device Clash Overcharging

TfL has already refunded £200,000 to public transport users

Passengers using contactless payment need to take care. Picture: London Travel Watch

May 8, 2024

A travel watch dog is issuing a warning to London commuters after the publication of new figures on the number of people being overcharged due to ‘device clash’ when making contactless payments.

Many people assume that if you pay for travel at a barrier on tubes and trains with a device or a card and then use a different method of payment, the system will recognise that you are using the same debit or credit card. However, ‘device clash’ happens when a person at the start of their journey uses one payment device (such as a digital wallet on their mobile phone) linked to their bank account and then uses another linked device (such as a smartwatch or contactless bankcard) at the end of their trip.

Although both devices are linked to the same bank account, for security reasons each one has a separate identity number. TfL’s systems are unable to recognise that the transactions belong to the same user, treating them instead as two separate, incomplete trips, each charged at the maximum fare.

London TravelWatch is highlight the issue after a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request made by a member of the public to Transport for London (TfL) revealed that TfL is refunding the equivalent of over £200,000 a year to passengers who have fallen foul of the problem.

Mr Paul Harper, who discovered the extent of the issue through his FOI request, said, “I was stunned by how much was taken out of my bank in such a short space of time. One journey from Watford to London and back cost £42 which is ridiculous.

“In fairness, TfL refunded me very quickly within a week. But it did make me wonder how many other passengers are being overcharged without knowing, particularly people visiting the city for a day or weekend who probably pass it off as expensive travel.”

Michael Roberts, CEO of London TravelWatch, said, ‘The level of TfL refunds is startling, but could be the tip of the iceberg as it doesn’t reflect the impact of device clash on passengers who just don’t realise that they have paid over the odds.

“We need TfL, banks and tech companies to re-double their efforts to find a permanent fix to this problem and to do more in the meantime to advise people to use just one device.

“Until then, we urge people who pay for travel using smart devices to check your bank statements regularly so as not to lose out.”

A TfL spokesperson said, “All customers using pay as you go are required to touch in and out using the same card or mobile device to ensure that they pay the correct fare and avoid incomplete journeys. This is particularly important when using mobile devices as each device is treated uniquely. The amount of refunds estimated by London Travel Watch to be issued due to this equates to less than 0.001 per cent of the around £3billion in total fares revenue correctly collected via pay as you go with contactless every year.

“Where customers believe they have been overcharged, we are always happy to investigate and refund where we can. TfL will also look to automatically correct contactless journeys where we can based on previous journey patterns.”

TfL also advises passengers to register for an online account if they are using contactless payment as this will allow them to track their journey history and claim repayments.

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