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Every Little Helps. The Tesco approach to over-limit Fees.

So ...

The other day I tried to use my Tesco Finest Platinum Turbo-Nutter credit card, and the transaction was declined.  Happens to the best of us I know, but it is paid off every month, and I had received text notification from First Direct that the debit had been made.  I called the Customer Services at Tesco and was told that they could see the credit too and it was on the account, but that they didn't apply it to the cleared balance for 4 days - the nice lady told me that it would be faster to use the faster payment bill payment method of payment, as that was faster, not like the direct debit which wasn't fast at all.  She did tell me that paying by direct debit was more convenient though - thanks!

Anyway, that's just scene-setting stuff.  

Here's the interesting bit:

Accepting that the direct debit sitting in the Tesco bank but not being allocated to my account is a legitimate credit card operator business practice, I was trying to work out with the nice lady why the authorisation request had been declined, but the previous request was approved.  The previous authorisation request, like the declined request, would also also have taken the account over its limit, but in this case it was approved.  

Here's what she said:

The Tesco authorisation systems is apparently parameterised to allow cardholders to complete the first authorisation request that will take them over their credit limit.  Subsequent authorisation requests are then declined.  

The first over-limit transaction is authorised!!!

Here's what then happened:

I received notification of a £12 default charge for allowing the account to go over its credit limit.  

Now, I have no real issue with over-limit fees and the like: those irresponsible cardholders really need to be taught a lesson.  However, I can't help thinking that in this case the situation resulting in the £12 default charge was manufactured.  I wonder: is this a clever use of technology, or a cynical approach to customer services?  And in today's climate, would the OFT care?

As Tesco keeps on telling us: "Every Little Helps".


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 23 December, 2009, 11:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Two things.

The deliberately authorising one and exactly one overlimit transaction is very common practice.  Cynical, yes.  Annoying, yes. If they could charge you £12 for each instance, they would authorise them all.  Duh.

If this all occcurred after 1 November of this year, the DD practice is not in compliance with the Payment Services Directive.  They need to change this.