Contactless payment still nonexistent in London

I signed up for a Barclaycard OnePulse just prior to their launch, and received one shortly afterwards. After a slightly bungled transfer of my season ticket to the new card, it replaced my previous Oyster card and is now stuck in the back of my wallet.

The attraction of the OnePulse card is that it combines an Oyster card with Visa’s payWave contactless payment system, allowing you — in theory — to make cashless small value payments without having to remove the card from your wallet or enter a PIN.

Of course, in practice, this is impossible, simply because no-one has installed the necessary contactless card readers. I thought I spied one through the window of a Yo! Sushi restaurant in the Brunswick centre, but I’m not sure it actually exists. My enquiry to EAT about when they’d be installing theirs was met with the following fascinatingly detailed response:

Thanks for taking the time to contact EAT. We plan to implement Wave and Pay in all our sotres by the end of the Summer.

It’s nice to see them taking the time to spell check their customer service emails (never mind the confusion around what the contactless payment technology is called) — and I’ll be impressed if they manage to achieve that objective. Some of their shops don’t take cards — an annoying inconsistency when you’re in a hurry and don’t have any cash; how is one supposed to determine a card-accepting EAT from one which doesn’t — and I’d imagine there’s a certain amount of staff training which will need to be done.

Interestingly, their rivals Pret have taken a slightly different approach, partnering with HSBC to process small value transactions with no PIN requirement. This seems to be commonplace in Sweden, for example, and while it does require card contact it reduces transaction processing time.

Why the delay to introduce contactless payment terminals at EAT, though? David Evans suggest that uptake of contactless payment has been slow because retailers are ‘ignorant or unpersuaded’. In this case, however, it’s clear that EAT is neither ignorant or unpersuaded — or perhaps they were persuaded back in 2007 and have since reprioritised the rollout.

I’m not sure who needs to push who here — it’s likely that Barclays had/have some contractual relationship with the partner retailers announced at the OnePulse launch; have these relationships gone sour? It certainly doesn’t make Barclays’ own marketing any easier. Alternatively, perhaps a bigger shakeup of the payments industry is required before we see real adoption of technologies like payWave.

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