Contactless troubles in London

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Be3G, 25 Aug 2015.

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  1. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    A couple of separate incidents have occurred to me in the past week or so using my contactless payment card to travel around London; as a Londoner without a travelcard or Oyster-worthy railcard CPCs are useful for me with their weekly capping so have become my principal way of paying for travel within the zones. Sorry about the length of this by the way, but I wasn't sure which details would be important so thought it best to include all of them!

    Incident no. 1:

    This is something I always feared would happen when London's buses turned cashless: a bus declined my CPC. I placed it on the reader, got the red light and double beep, tried again several times, but not luck. The little Oyster reader display just said ‘try again’. Very helpful. Initially I feared it was an issue with my own card, but then the passenger behind me got on, tried to use a CPC, and that didn't work either. The driver offered no help whatsoever; I recognise that payments-wise his hands were tied, but he didn't deign to investigate whether perhaps his machine was broken or something. So we both got off and waited for the next bus, on which our cards worked fine.

    The thing is, it's not uncommon that – living in zone 6 – I find myself waiting for infrequent buses (even one that just runs four times a day). So whilst I was lucky that the above incident occurred on a frequent bus, I'm unhappy that it happened at all and the only solution offered was to wait for another because the situation could be more challenging if trying catch a bus on a different route.

    Does anyone know what might have caused the problem, what I/the driver should have done about it, and whether this would be worth reporting to TfL? (I have a note of the bus's reg no., time and bus stop where the issue happened.)

    Incident no. 2:

    OK, there're two parts to this, the first of which occurred several months ago. I was entering Stratford via the Westfield ticket hall gateline. The station was busy (very noisy) and my set of ticket barriers was still open as I placed my CPC on the reader. I held it there for as long as I normally would with a CPC (slightly longer than needed for an Oyster), but heard no beep and didn't see a green light – however the barriers stayed open so I walked through. As I progressed through the station however I started to worry that I'd accidentally tailgated somebody, hadn't registered a touch-in and could therefore cause problems for myself further on in the journey. So I went back to the gateline, asked somebody for assistance; he reached over and touched the card in on the entry side, the barriers opened, and all was well with the world.

    …Until I checked my TfL account and saw that two entries at Stratford had been logged, one therefore causing an incomplete journey. I must've taken slightly too long to return to the gateline therefore and exceeded the two minute limit. TfL were happy to refund the incomplete journey charge anyway and I put the experience down to me just, I don't know, going mad.

    Since that occurred however I've been fastidious at never removing my CPC from an Oyster reader until I see the green light, which sometimes appears with a noticeable delay after the single beep. Fast forward to the weekend just gone, then, when I was touching in at a station gateline (can't remember which one), held my CPC on the reader, heard a beep, the barriers didn't close after already being open for the previous customer, waited for the green light and… waited. After a couple of seconds I thought I must be looking stupid standing there like a lemon so I proceeded through, never having been given a green light. Checking my TfL account later in the day everything was fine, but until such a time as I could check the account, it did have me worried.

    So is there a known bug with green lights occasionally not showing for CPC users? And is it safe to rely on the beep and/or opening (or non-closing) of barriers if no green light is seen?
     
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  3. blotred

    blotred Member

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    I have observed this at quite a few stations when using my CPC at various places in London recently, where the screen just says "Card Accepted" but there is no green light. My oyster at the same station shows a green light as expected.
    (I switched my usual period travelcard on oyster to CPC this month because I was on a business trip for a lot of this month, and wanted the flexibility).
     
  4. Mike395

    Mike395 Forum Staff Staff Member Administrator

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    Agreed - the 'Card accepted' wording on the display is now what I watch for (as the green light no longer seems to be decisive with the introduction of CPC!) as well as the light. (I've not yet had an issue with buses, or with the Card accepted wording not appearing - but that doesn't mean it isn't an issue either! :) )
     
  5. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm actually writing this from a bus having just encountered a new kind of problem! Boarded the bus and tapped my CPC on the reader; got a red light and double beep. Placed it on the reader again and the following happened: the light went from amber to green briefly (a fraction of a second) then back to amber, and there was no beep. The little screen did though show my CPC's expiry date etc. which the driver and I took to mean the card had been accepted.

    I'm starting to wonder if there's been some kind of software update recently that's made the readers all a bit useless!
     
  6. blakey1152

    blakey1152 Member

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    I might be wrong, but this is how I believe the CPC system works in London.

    There was a lot of people concerned that the card might be declined leaving people stranded if it required to do an extra check but I don't believe that would ever happen.
    When you tap in and out on London's transport system using a CPC it records the journey and can work out the cost of that particular trip - however unlike a contactless payment it doesn't authorise that payment then and there it stores it up for the whole day and in the early hours TfL then attempt to take the money owed using using the card number.

    If that fails then I believe they can and do block cards until the money owed is paid up. So technically its not really a contactless payment but a normal card payment at the end of the day.

    So a red alarm on the oyster reader when using a CPC providing you don't owe TfL any money would be a fault with the reader and not the card.

    Blakey
     
  7. strowger

    strowger Member

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  8. 34D

    34D Established Member

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    As someone who (occasionally) drives buses in London I can confirm that CPC's do on occasion go red. The reasons could be varied, and include a previous payment to TfL not working, or a block placed by TfL or card issuer, etc. There is NO 'one more journey' feature on CPCs.

    My advice is therefore to always have an oyster card in your wallet for use as a fallback.

    As to what happens: as the TfL website says the driver is unable to regularise the situation, advice being to call first the TfL 0343 222 1234 number or second your card issuer.

    The driver has the option of taking your name and address and allowing you to pay IRCAS, and indeed have the option to use their discretion if they feel you are vulnerable.

    What TfL route runs four times a day then :s

    Ah that would be the 347
     
    Last edited: 26 Aug 2015
  9. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    I think I'll just stick with my Oyster!
     
  10. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    I was just thinking the same myself.
     
  11. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    Oyster PAYG is good for expenses as I can use the weekly statement as a receipt
     
  12. maniacmartin

    maniacmartin Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    I have had contactless fail on over 50% of the time I used it. Usually its a red light on the read (at a tube gateline), even though my card has been working fine elsewhere. I gave up on it
     
  13. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Member

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    Three of us travelled from Biggin Hill to Bromley South last week. Two of the CPC worked, one didn't. Driver took pity on my mate and let him travel anyway.
     
  14. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    It's certainly very interesting reading that I'm not the only person to find TfL's contactless implementation somewhat flakey. Unfortunately, whilst it is tempting to return to Oyster with its near-100% reliability, I do value contactless's weekly capping. As I've grumbled about before on these forums, fare rises in recent years have largely priced me off using rail-based modes of transport in London, but weekly capping means I still get a bit of flexibility to use trains etc. without it costing the earth (e.g. a two-zone weekly cap only costs £3.10 more than a bus cap).

    Nope you're not wrong at all, this is indeed how it works. I was one of the people most worried by the potential PIN-entering problem; having used contactless exclusively for almost a year now, I can certainly attest that PIN-entering/verification isn't an issue.

    Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting your post, but you seem to be looking at the problem from the angle of the cause being something to do with my card or bank; the fact that another passenger had the same problem and then we both boarded the next bus successfully implies the issue lay with TfL in my mind. (Unless it's the case that when a CPC user touches in some sort of data is checked with a bank before the card is accepted? I suppose it's possible I and the other passenger are with the same bank. I didn't think that happened though – mobile data networks don't strike me as being responsive enough for that.) As such, I would have hoped the driver might have ‘regularised’ the situation by realising that the Oyster reader was having trouble with CPCs, if indeed that was the problem.

    As for the bus, in my case it's the W10 on a weekday. :)
     
  15. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    I'm not 100% convinced of the discrete works/doesn't work nature of contactless cards. I raised this point on another thread and those who understand the technology better than I have assured me that it's not possible, but I still hold on to the belief that a failing card can work intermittently, depending on the particular reader it is being used with.

    That would explain the driver's reluctance to believe that the fault lay with his equipment as it probably worked perfectly fine with Oyster and contactless bank cards both before and and after you attempted to use yours.

    As to both you and your fellow wannabe passenger experiencing problems at the same time, we need invoke nothing more than coincidence.
     
  16. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    Point taken. I don't like coincidences. :lol:
     
  17. strowger

    strowger Member

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  18. MikeWh

    MikeWh Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    My contactless Amex card won't work in Iceland but that's down to the retailer. I did have occasional problems with yellow readers in the early days, but I was advised to touch the card at a slight angle and that does seem to work. Usually I keep my index finger just under one of the long edges so the card is at 10-15 degrees.
     
  19. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Slightly off-topic, but I haven't got to try my contactless Amex card (actually a Barclaycard Cashback Amex card, giving 1% cashback, not open to new customers) in Iceland because it is not economical to pay with anything other than the Iceland Bonus Card, otherwise you miss out on the 4% discount. So I only ever top-up the card with £25 pounds to get the £1 bonus. However, when the contactless card limit is increased to £30, we will then be able to top-up the Bonus card with a contactless bank card.

    (I suppose you could top-up the £25 in more than one transaction, then enabling you to both get the £1 bonus and pay using a contactless before the contactless limit increases.)
     
  20. blakey1152

    blakey1152 Member

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    One other thing I notice with trying to use a CPC is that there is a noticeable short delay before you get the "beep" compared to an Oyster card which is virtually instant!
     
  21. 34D

    34D Established Member

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    I suppose I'm assuming that the 'red light' is actually one of those periodic times that the bank wants a contactless transaction to be verified by pin (which a bus can't do) or otherwise an intentional rejection, whether from TfL or your bank.

    I had someone only this morning on my bus whose contactless card didn't accept. I printed him the advice slip and allowed him to travel.
     
  22. Be3G

    Be3G Established Member

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    Thankfully this isn't an issue, at least with First Direct. The contactless card I use for travel is almost exclusively used for that purpose, so in the past the card has easily gone a month or more without being used for anything but 100 or more bus journeys. This is one area of the contactless system where TfL definitely did some good work.
     
  23. londonbridge

    londonbridge Member

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    I had this happen once, I boarded a bus and swiped my card and it was rejected for no obvious reason. Swiped my Oyster but that was in negative balance. Got off the bus, luckily I had a choice of two buses for my journey and one on the other route came along a few minutes later. Got on, swiped my CPC, worked fine.

    Edit: In reply to 34D, I don't use the contactless element in shops, I ONLY use it for transport, be it bus, tube, train or tram, and the above incident is the one and only time it's been refused.
     
    Last edited: 27 Aug 2015
  24. Tetchytyke

    Tetchytyke Established Member

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    I've had my debit card declined on a bus for absolutely no reason before- it worked in Pret before and McDonald's afterwards. Fortunately I carry more than one CPC, so I just used the credit card instead.
     
  25. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    What's the legal position? CPCs are advertised as a valid payment method, to the exclusion of almost all else which is down to their own policy. Given there's strong evidence the cards in use are not defective, on what grounds are they refusing travel?


    It was very foolish of TfL to decide to run cashless buses in areas where all of the other local buses accept cash only. Even worse that they choose not to accept Network Watford or Intalink tickets.
     
  26. MikeWh

    MikeWh Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    Have they ever accepted Network Watford or Intalink tickets on TfL bus routes? And do the 5-15 year old users of the other local buses complain about having to pay?
     
  27. island

    island Established Member

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    A supplier of services is entitled to determine the terms upon which it will supply those services. Terms may include requiring payment in a certain manner, such as some utilities requiring payment by direct debit on some tariffs, or some airlines requiring payment by credit or debit card.

    A bus pulling up and opening its doors would constitute what is legally termed an invitation to treat. Neither party is bound to any conditions at this stage. A prospective passenger boarding the bus and tendering the fare, such as by touching a contactless payment card to a reader, is offering to pay the amount in question in return for being carried on the bus. The bus operator may (and usually does) accept the offer (creating a contract between the parties), or decline the offer. In the rare latter case, no contract exists and the prospective passenger has no right to be carried. He may make a new offer, such as by touching the same or a different card to the reader, which in turn may be accepted or not. Ultimately, if no offer is accepted, the passenger has no contract or other right to be carried on the bus and would need to alight.

    The above is my personal understanding and not a legal opinion, but I believe it to be correct.
     
  28. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    I'm not a lawyer, but that sounds about right to me.
     
  29. 34D

    34D Established Member

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    I agree 100% with this post.

    The situation on the periphery has to be seen to be believed :(
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Indeed. Where I am unsure, however, is that registered services need to be prepared to accept the general public (see this thread) so I hesitate to say that 'normal' offer/acceptance apply without better legal knowledge.
     
    Last edited: 18 Sep 2015
  30. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    But as far as I know there's no specific requirement for them to accept cash as opposed to any other advertised payment method. TfL have heavily advertised that their bus services are cash-free.
     
  31. 34D

    34D Established Member

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    I agree with that.

    The issue at hand is where a card has been declined by TfL's systems for an unknown reason.
     
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