Apple Pay not off to a great start in the UK

Friday 17 July 2015 | 12:03 CET | Background

On 14th July 2015 Apple Pay officially launched in the UK, but it hasn't been plain sailing to start with. Next to two main banks delaying their launch, the first experiences noted in the press and on the web were not all positive.

At launch Apple Pay could immediately be used at around 250,000 locations in the UK, amongst which are well-known retailers such as Boots, Lidl, Marks&Spencer, Starbucks, Waitrose and the Post Office and many others already having NFC readers in place.

Two banks (HSBC and its subsidiary First Direct) which were originally part of the banks launching Apple Pay have had to delay the launch for their customers, reportedly after some late technological setbacks although this was denied by HSBC. Still not all banks support it, as customers of large banks such as Halifax, Lloyds and TSB do not yet know when they can start to use it, but rumours are that they can in September. Barclays has however now stated that it will allow their customers to use Apple Pay in the future, while it had initially said it wouldn’t be part of it. This was no real surprise as Barclays had launched its own bPay scheme in 2014.

According to Brandwatch in the first few days Apple Pay was mostly used on the public transport system followed by using it at Tesco and sandwich shop Pret a Manger (although officially Tesco is not yet accepting Apple Pay, like none of the other major supermarkets). The tweets analysed by Brandwatch also had a high number of mentions regarding problems with Apple Pay. Mostly about getting it to work properly but also on believing they had been charged twice.

However only two days after the launch date Transport for London warned customers that they could get fined if their mobile phone has run out of battery or if they are taking a call at the moment of trying to pay. Users’ reactions on the Guardian newspaper website were mostly negative, especially noting the slower response time of Apple Pay compared to the TfL’s Oyster card.

In one of the shopping centres, Telecompaper spoke to one clothes retailer who stated that they are not interested as the limit of Apple Pay (and other NFC schemes for that matter) is too low for the average spend in its shop, even though that limit is not actually imposed by Apple but by the banks and some retailers themselves. According to Essential Retail however several retailers including Boots, H&M, Jack & Jones, Mango and Marks & Spencer do not apply the GBP 20 limit and so customers can use Apple Pay for all their purchases.

Other less positive mentions about Apple Pay were to be expected given it is new payment method, even though contactless payments have become quite commonplace in the UK. They related to staff in the shops not being familiar with the new payment method, the more awkward way of having to hold the Watch compared to the iPhone and the fact that compared to a contactless card it doesn’t actually save any time. These issues are likely to disappear relatively quickly once consumers and retailers become more accustomed to its use.

As neither Google Pay nor Samsung Pay have given any possible launch dates yet for the UK, the first mover advantage will most likely help Apple to gain a large part of the mobile payments pie in the UK, despite the hiccups of the first few days.

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