Payment systems need to be fully automated to reduce the risk of unwanted liabilities arising from human error and misjudgement
With hard cash, the usual set of problems faced include shortage of smaller denomination currency notes, risk of counterfeit notes, torn/soiled notes, etc. Digital payments have done away with all such issues, but some new ones have been created in the process. Payments getting stuck, account debited but not credited and weak network signal are among the most common.
At locations where the amount needs to be entered manually, there’s always the risk of human error. A recent example involves a Honda Activa owner who was charged Rs 55,000 instead of Rs 550. The incident occurred at a Shell fuel pump in Thane, Maharashtra. Thankfully, the matter was resolved amicably, with the owner getting the refund on the same day.
After filling the fuel tank of his Honda Activa, the owner made the payment by scanning the QR code shown by the fuel pump attendant. He made the payment via Google Pay. Once the payment was made, he was surprised to see the amount that was debited from his account. The amount was to be about Rs 550. But instead, the fuel pump attendant had by mistake generated QR code for Rs 55,000.
Attendants at fuel pumps have to process hundreds of payments every day. Depending on the location, a significant percentage of these are digital payments. At most fuel stations, the amount has to be entered manually on the handheld POS machine. As number of transactions is quite high, the risk of human error is always present. Moreover, attendants are under pressure, as they have to ensure that the exact amount is entered.
Entering the wrong amount on the POS machine can also be due to lack of proper training and awareness. Newer machines that display a QR code for making payment are relatively easier to use as compared to older versions. Newer POS machines utilize capacitive touchscreens, as compared to the button keys of older generation POS machines. Newer POS machines also have larger and clearer displays.
Despite these factors, the Activa owner was still overcharged. It is not clear what exactly led to this error. As newer POS machines offer smartphone-like clarity, it is difficult to tag this incident as a casual error. On their part, users can avoid such incidents by taking a look at the amount displayed on the POS machine screen before making the payment.
Integration of fuel pump and POS machines
To avoid incidents of overcharging, the human element needs to be completely eliminated. Fuel pumps need to be connected wirelessly to the POS machines, so that the amount shown is always equal to the value of fuel dispensed. Something similar has already been implemented at various retail outlets, where POS machines automatically fetch the amount from the bill generated. As no manual entry is involved, the risk of charging less or more is completely eliminated.
Current-gen POS machines that display QR code for payment can also be improved by displaying the amount more prominently. As of now, the QR code takes most of the space and the amount is displayed in a corner in small font. If the amount is displayed more clearly, users can immediately spot a wrong entry.