In the latest Service Centre, Jac Roper looks at the confusion caused when card payments don’t show up on customer accounts as the right enterprise - did they pay the Fire Station or the Service Station? 

Ft - Jac Roper - Service Centre

I got an email from Jon Brownsey in Hampshire saying: “I have an interesting situation which, while not causing me a problem directly, is resulting in a number of customers ’phoning to check they have paid me and not someone else.

“It seems that when paying me with certain cards, customers are having the recipient of their transaction showing on their statement as ‘Fordingbridge Fire Station’ instead of ‘Fordingbridge Service Station’. I have even had some of the retained firefighters from the fire station checking with me that they haven’t paid themselves!

“I have contacted our merchant services provider who tells me that it is to do with the GPS system of the card providers, with the biggest problems being Monzo, Santander and NatWest. It is something I have no control over. One of my customers is taking the matter up with NatWest and it will be interesting to see what response they get.

“Obviously Fordingbridge Fire Station appearing on your statement is causing some interest and confusion, but is a fairly benign institution. Suppose the wrongly stated business was a lap dancing club? Now that really might take some explaining!!”

Jon also contacted suppliers TLM, Aspen and Suresite for their input. Suresite said that WorldPay had come back and confirmed everything from their end was set correctly.

I contacted all three of the banks mentioned. Santander said: “When a customer makes a transaction the details of it, including the amount and the merchant being paid, are sent to us from the merchant, via their acquiring bank and via our card issuer, Mastercard.

“These details are then printed onto the customer’s statement, we do not independently hold lists of merchant names.

“Our team has checked a random transaction for this merchant, which was shown as ’Fordingbridge S.Station’.”

Monzo Bank’s response was frankly bonkers. Here was part of it: “Would you mind sending through a selfie photo with both your face and photo ID visible so that we can verify your identity? We need to see both your face and your ID in the same image.”

But NatWest’s press office was very helpful. They said: “If I could get any of the details of the NatWest customer who experienced this I would be more than happy to help look into this further. I wouldn’t be able to track their complaint without some information from them – name, address, account number. It could maybe help us join the dots.”

It was a big ask. As Jon said: “I will see what I can do – I will have to pick my customer carefully seeing as I will be asking for enough personal details to successfully scam them! I don’t feel 100% happy asking a customer for all this information but I suppose I will have to.”

In the end it proved to be the best way to a solution. Jon sent me an obliging customer’s account details along with a picture of his phone with the GPS feature showing the location of the transaction being the Fire Station rather than the service station.

I sent this to NatWest and they got quite excited by it. They said: “Thanks to that image and the customer details you shared we have been able to pinpoint the problem.

“On further investigation we understand that the issue with the incorrect name of the business was due to third party data provided by a company called Ethoca.

“Given customers of the petrol station had this experience of the wrong address with various banks – we would assume that those other banks might also be using Ethoca to supply their Enhanced Transaction Data.

“Enhanced Transaction Data allows customers to see merchant logos, merchant info and digital receipts for their transactions, while also providing map data for point-of-sale transactions. Sometimes the logos, maps, and additional merchant info may be incorrectly provided by third party provider Ethoca.

“Bank customers experiencing this problem can report incorrect data within the transaction screen. Following these steps: 1. Click into the transaction; 2. Click on the ‘Wrong name, location or logo?’ button and 3. Select the options that apply.

“On this occasion the NatWest mobile banking team contacted Ethoca and they have confirmed that the error has now been corrected. I would like to thank Mr Brownsey for bringing this to our attention and hope the issue doesn’t occur again but please get in touch if it does.”

I contacted Mastercard, which owns Ethoca, for a response and they said: “Once we were made aware of the error, it was quickly corrected.”

The public relations lady at NatWest added to their comment: “It has been a very interesting investigation – I have learned a lot along the way.”

Wish I could say the same. As I said to Jon I had to admit that when I hear terms like ‘merchant’s acquirer’ what is left of my brain withers away.

Nobody puts it better than Jon himself: “I must confess to never being able to understand the complex (and expensive) process of getting money from a customer’s card into my account. Terms such as ‘card issuer’, ‘authorisation’, ‘settlement’, ‘scheme fees’ and now ‘merchant’s acquirer’ go to show how many people have their hand in the till. It might be a good article for your page to explain this process if you can get an explanation – I suspect a lot of other retailers wouldn’t understand it either.”

And he asks: “Do you ever get the impression that technology is making things more complicated than it needs to be?”

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