Asda has suspended its trial of a temporary £99 pre-authorisation card charge for customers who fill up at the pumps of its petrol stations after an outcry from drivers.
The supermarket giant had been trialling the scheme at three stores in Barry in Glamorgan, Wales, Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, and Widnes in Cheshire since last month.
A change in Visa and MasterCard rules last year meant that petrol stations with automated fuel pumps were required to pre-authorise a value equivalent to a full tank of fuel, so that customers didn’t fill up with more fuel than they could afford.
Before the new rules, a £1 holding fee was taken from cardholders’ accounts, but this was deemed too low to cover the cost of fuel, with the risk that motorists would get into debt and petrol stations would not be paid in full.
But some Asda customers reported that it was taking more than two days for the temporary charge to be refunded to their account – though this was due to a delay by their banks rather than Asda holding the pre-authorisation fee.
Customer Jade Louise went on to Facebook to vent her frustration, posting: “Don’t go to Asda for fuel! Unless you can live without £99 for around 2-3 days! They’ve [sic] brought in a new system that allows them to take £99 out of your account as a ‘deposit’ for your fuel then a second transaction of the fuel you’ve actually taken and they don’t return the £99 until the second payment has cleared, which can take at least 2 days with Asda…”
She also complained that there were no notices on petrol pumps warning customers of the change in policy.
An Asda spokesperson says: “We always want to do the right thing for our customers, which is why we have made the decision to suspend Visa and MasterCard’s pre-authorisation transaction trial.
“The intention of Visa and MasterCard in this trial was to ensure customers had sufficient funds in their account to pay for their fuel, and the £99 would be immediately released back to customers by their bank.
“While we have received very few complaints about this process, until we can be given assurance that all banks are able to comply with the Visa and MasterCard rule change, we cannot continue to implement this change and risk harming our customers’ trust in us.”