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Credit card customers without a mobile phone blocked from online shopping

Peter Henry M&S Bank Mobile Phone Verify Identity Fraud Prevention - Paul Cooper
Peter Henry M&S Bank Mobile Phone Verify Identity Fraud Prevention - Paul Cooper

M&S Bank is the latest firm to be criticised for "excluding" customers without a mobile phone, after the introduction of new fraud checks left some credit card holders unable to verify payments.

Vulnerable banking customers are among those hit by new rules that mean purchases have to be approved via mobile phones.

City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned that banks need to offer customers without mobile phones another way of verifying payments.

But The Telegraph has spoken to customers who have been left unable to use their cards due to the changes.

It comes after John Lewis customers were blocked from renewing their Partnership Cards because they did not have a mobile phone to complete the application process.

Under fraud prevention rules that came into effect in March, customers have to verify their identity for certain online payments. Typically, the customer receives a code via text to be typed in at checkout or a notification in their mobile banking app that they need to approve.

But neither of these methods work for people who cannot or do not want to use mobile phones, which is why the FCA says providers should offer alternative methods of verification.

However, it is up to the banks to choose which alternative they offer and there is no one-size-fits-all. Just because a solution works for someone who has poor phone signal, it might not be appropriate for people with certain disabilities.

Peter Henry, 60, from Yorkshire, has a spinal cord injury which means he cannot use a mobile phone or a card reader.

For years, M&S Bank let him verify transactions for his credit card via email, but customers can now only do so via text message, mobile app or card reader.

Peter Henry - Paul Cooper
Peter Henry - Paul Cooper

M&S Bank suggested he call their customer services on his landline to verify transactions, but Mr Henry said this was not a workable solution because it required him to be at home, adding: “I do not wish to get stuck somewhere with no means to pay. There should be some degree of understanding for people like me who can’t use mobile phones.”

Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Cash Action Group, said: “There are over four million people in the UK without a smartphone, and there are many more who live in areas with poor mobile coverage. Often they are the oldest or the most vulnerable. It’s vital there is always an alternative to digital payments to make sure no one is left behind.”

Some companies offer no alternatives to mobile phone verification. To even apply for a credit card, Virgin Money and John Lewis Finance require customers to provide a mobile phone number, as does TSB – although it will let customers register without a mobile phone in branch.

Campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen, who launched The Silver Helpline for the elderly, said: “Nobody considers how older people are affected when a process like this changes. It’s absolutely maddening that bank staff in their 40s are making such decisions that affect people in their 90s.”

A M&S Bank spokesman said customers affected should contact the bank to “explore the most appropriate solution for them”.

A FCA spokesman said: “Banks and other payment companies should provide several different methods for people to confirm transactions are genuine. We will engage with any firm not offering alternative methods.”