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Author Topic: Watch out! How your smart device can charge you twice on London transport  (Read 404 times)
Transport Scholar
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« on: October 27, 2022, 04:01:38 pm »

From London Travelwatch

Do you have your mobile phone or another smart device connected to your bank account so you can travel without a second thought? This saves on the need to buy paper tickets or delve into your wallet for a debit or Oyster (Smartcard system used by passengers on Transport for London services) card.

But did you know that if you touch in with your mobile phone and out with your smartwatch at a TfL» (Transport for London - about) station, you may be charged the maximum ticket fare? Twice.

This is a big bugbear for passengers riding the tube, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), London Overground, Elizabeth line and even Thames Clipper boat services.

The double charge occurs because while the same bank account is usually registered to the smart phone or watch, they carry separate unique device codes (or Permanent Account Numbers). Therefore, the ticket readers think that two separate journeys are ‘incomplete’ as the person using their mobile phone did not touch out while the person with the smartwatch seemingly did not touch in to start their journey.

Joanna Davidson, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) for London TravelWatch, said:

“We’d like TfL to work with the issuing banks to see if this issue can be resolved in the interests of hard-pressed passengers where every penny really does count right now.

We don’t think it should matter if the devices being used are different, only that the same registered bank account is paying for the journey.

We know that once someone works out they have been charged twice due to a ‘mixed-device payment’ issue, requesting a refund is relatively straightforward. But it is not immediately obvious that a double charge has taken place as the ticket gates still open as normal.”

To avoid unnecessary charges, Transport for London encourages passengers to always touch in and out using the same device.

In 2022, the London TravelWatch casework team has received concerns from customers about this issue. Many did not find out about being charged twice for some time, with multiple journeys affected. That is because the ticket gates open as normal even if you’ve used multiple devices to complete your journey. They do not beep to warn passengers there might be an issue.

In industry speak this issue is called a ‘mixed-device payment’. People either touch in and out on card readers using different devices in error, or because they believe the system will be able to tell it is the same person making the journey. Either way, the result is that they then need to request a refund.

London TravelWatch is recommending that if you do pay for travel using smart devices you should check your bank statements regularly and keep on top of any of these potential issues, so you don’t lose out.

You can register for an online account with TfL at and information on using contactless with mobile devices can be found here –
Around 30 per cent of incomplete Oyster journeys and 50 per cent of Contactless journeys are corrected either automatically or by the customer requesting a refund via TfL’s website or customer services team. Data on incomplete journeys can be found online at[/url]
Transport Scholar
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2022, 06:20:06 pm »

If they use the bank account as the identifier for the journeys as requested then what will happen if 2 people have a joint bank account and are travelling together or separately in London?

To solve the problem unambiguously it would be necessary to separately register the cards and devices used by each person
Transport Scholar
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2022, 07:41:40 pm »

To avoid unnecessary charges, Transport for London encourages passengers to always touch in and out using the same device.

Well, no - they insist you must or you'll be charged too much:
To pay the right fare:

Always use the same device or contactless card to touch in and out. For example, don't touch in with an iPhone and touch out with an Apple Watch or contactless card

But they also say:
Always use the same device or contactless card to touch in and out to pay the right fare for your journey. If you don't, we won't be able to cap your fares. For example, don't touch in with an iPhone and touch out with an Apple Watch or contactless card.

That's a separate issue, to do with their linking complete journeys rather than the start and end of one journey.

So the message could be clearer, perhaps as blunt as "You must use the same device to touch in and out (and en route is needed) for one journey, or you will be charged two maximum fares."

Not that that would help with those that don't read instructions, of course. The point is that the front end of the system works out what journeys cards or devices have made, not people or bank accounts. A card needs a human only to wave it about it when travelling, and bank accounts come into it later, in the back office, long after all the in-out matching has been done.

I'm sure TfL» (Transport for London - about) don't intend to change that, and perhaps don't see this as a problem. It might be promoted as an advantage, allowing two people to use the system at once (or even together) with one person/bank account paying for both.
Ralph Ayres
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2022, 08:32:12 pm »

"a big bugbear", say Travelwatch.  It's hard to see why many people would find one device most convenient to use at the start of the journey but a different one at the end.  Maybe phone in hand at one end to plan the journey but put it away and used a watch at the other? Whatever, it's not going to change as the journey-tracking and payment-making functions are kept as far apart as possible to maximise financial security and personal data privacy.
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