Supermarket chain Asda has shelved its controversial petrol deposit trial rolled out in three supermarkets in the UK. The move followed adverse news headlines in the recent past. Disgruntled customers have been voicing their displeasure for being charged £99 more after filling up using the supermarket’s pay-at-the- pump system. The system had been allowing Asda customers to pay for fuel upfront using their card without going into the kiosk.
According to BBC reports, Asda claims the £99 deposit was meant to be a holding charge to make sure customers have enough funds to pay for fuel. The scheme has now been suspended. Asda claims they just wanted to do what was best for their customers.
What went wrong?
The Asda petrol deposit was designed to help customers avoid overdraft facilities when paying for fuel in case a customer paid for fuel using their card, and they didn’t necessarily have funds available in the card. Although the trial deposit was designed to do good, it has faced widespread criticism from customers who were forced to pay the £99 deposit over and above the fuel purchased without any warning.
The trial deposit which was meant to be cancelled when the right fuel amount was paid faced serious delays because of coordination challenges between Visa, MasterCard and consumer banks. The challenges left many Asda customers short of £99 temporarily.
According to a statement released by Asda, MasterCard and Visa intended to make sure Asda customers had enough funds in their card to pay for fuel and the £99 deposit would be refunded immediately to the customers through their bank.
Asda admitted to receiving few complaints about the process but went ahead to suspend the change sighting risks associated with harming their customer’s trust in them. Until the British retailer is given assurances that all banks will comply with the MasterCard and Visa rule change, it can’t continue with the petrol deposit trial.
High profile complaints
Asda may have received a few complaints, however; most were shared on social media (Facebook) and reported by mainstream media. One notable complaint was by Asda customer Jade Louise who blasted at the company furiously for being charged £99 after buying petrol worth £5 at an Asda located in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. According to her complaint, her trial deposit was refunded three days later causing here huge inconveniences. Her complaint, which was in the form of a Facebook post, was shared more than 20,000 times. She attached her bank statement (a screenshot) to back up her claims and a post urging people not to fuel at Asda unless they are willing to wait for days without £99.
Part of her complaint blamed Asda for bringing a new system that allows the retailer to deduct £99 from a customer’s account for fuel as well as a second deduction for the fuel you have actually taken. According to Louise, she had tried contacting Asda and received unsatisfactory feedback from a manager who stated that the deduction was a trial. Louise among many other complainants expressed displeasure at the fact that £99 is deducted from your account and you can’t use the money for days until it is released back after the other payment is cleared. Most complaints were on execution.
Customers felt Asda could have communicated better using notices on petrol pumps to ensure customers were aware of the change in policy before facing a huge £99 pre-authorisation charge which wasn’t refunded in minutes.
Change in the rules
According to MasterCard correspondence with BBC, there had been a recent change in industry regulations in 2017 that required automated fuel pumps to pre- authorise a value matching the cost of a full tank of petrol. Before the change, motorists were only charged a £1 pre-authorisation from their accounts as a
confirmation that they were using a valid card. The new rules were meant to ensure customer didn’t fill up more fuel than they could afford which would usually result in overdraft charges.
The controversial £99 petrol deposit trial comes in the wake of an anticipated increase in fuel prices globally as the United States decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. There is a looming increase in pump prices in the next few weeks.
There is also increasing concern about short term debt like overdraft loans in the UK.