When retailers began accepting Apple Pay on Monday (Oct. 20), it was inevitable that there would be glitches. So far, there seems to be about 1,000 of them, most notably in the form of double-charges at various Apple Pay partner retailers for customers presenting their Bank of America debit cards.
The story first surfaced when a CNN reporter, Samuel Burke, discovered the duplicate charges on his personal BOA debit card, used at Whole Foods and Duane Reade. Initially, Bank of America said it was an Apple issue and Apple pointed the finger back at BOA. By the day’s close, Apple was issuing statements calling it “a Bank of America issue” and Bank of America issued a statement indicating that it was preparing a fix.
Duplicate charges can happen during service interruptions such as power outages. The system examines transactions that were being processed at the instant of the interruption and to make sure the account was charged, it runs them through a second time, which can cause duplicate charges for those transactions that had already processed.
With the Apple Pay NFC transactions, though, an interruption could be caused by many issues, if that was in fact the case of these incidents. An Apple Patent filing published earlier this month discussed the various ways Apple Pay was designed to deal with payments that didn’t immediately process.
One issue described in the Patent speaks to whether the shopper (or, more precisely, the shoppers’ iPhone) stays within the very-short NFC wireless range during the full transaction, as opposed to putting the phone away as soon as the transaction seemed to go through. “The user device may have to wait for the electronic device to be moved out of the field before starting a timer that sets forth a period of time within which the electronic device can be used to reattempt the transaction. If the electronic device has been moved back within the field prior to the timer expiring, the electronic device may be reconfigured with one or more new hardware settings and another financial transaction is attempted. The new hardware settings for each attempt can be different and can be selected from a table of predetermined settings that is stored on the user device,” the filing said.
As the Patent detailed, the configuration and settings involved in dealing with a glitched transaction are considerable. “In response to detecting that a mobile payment transaction has failed at the merchant terminal, the user device may be reconfigured using at least one new hardware control setting before attempting another payment transaction at the merchant terminal,” the filing said. “The user device may be reconfigured to perform a subsequent payment using a new transmit power control setting, using a new phase offset setting, use a new wakeup threshold setting (e.g., a setting that determines the maximum distance that the electronic device needs to be held from the merchant terminal in order for the electronic device to initiate the mobile payment transaction), using a new signal damping coefficient setting, using a new frame delay setting (e.g., a setting that sets forth a period of time that the user device needs to wait before sending an acknowledgement in response to receiving a request from the merchant terminal), etc. If desired, other types of hardware updates may be implemented.”