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One hears about situations where someone legitimately pays using a payment card, but further charges are made unexpectedly. Examples include additional charges determined by the company without approval from the customer, charges determined in error and signing up to repeated payments when a single payment was expected.

According to Citizens Advice it is the law that you can withdraw your consent and stop a future payment. This can theoretically be done by email, which the CAB saying:

The law says you can withdraw your consent and stop a future payment under a continuous payment authority at any time up to the end of business on the day before the payment is due.

To withdraw consent, simply tell whoever issued your card (the bank, building society or credit card company) that you don’t want the payment to be made. You can tell the card issuer by phone, email or letter.

Assume one could set up a system that does this for all card payments automatically unless one actively stopped it happening, what could go wrong? Would there be any downside of doing this, assuming one did not make a mistake and block a payment one meant to make?

I have addressed the general problem in this question, and a legal aspect in this question. I have borrowed content from both for this question. To be clear, I would proactively turn the consent withdrawl off for the very payments I would like to reoccur. For me this is less than five, and they change less then once per year.

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    This question reads like "assuming this complicated thing is simple to do and none of the obvious things go wrong, what could go wrong?" When my Dad first got a credit card he was super paranoid and asked for a £50 credit limit to reduce the risk. Then the very first thing he wanted to buy was a pair of shoes costing more than that, and he couldn't understand why his card was being declined.
    – Vicky
    Commented Jul 9 at 15:36
  • "This can theoretically be done by email." Doubtful. And something required by law does not need to be easy, to be legal. Prepare to jump through hoops. Commented Jul 9 at 15:59
  • @Grade'Eh'Bacon I am prepared to jump through hoops, but I hope AI will help.
    – User65535
    Commented Jul 9 at 16:54
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    AI won't help. There is still very little, if any, intelligence in today's AI. At best. It makes foid guesses. At worst, it makes guesses that look good and are completely wrong.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 9 at 18:34
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    It won't navigate well if the menu changes. If the menu doesn't change, many systems let you enter keys without waiting for the prompt to complete so simple times might do the job. And it's probably easier to manipulate a web session. I think you're jumping on the wrong solution unless you want a more difficult exercise.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 9 at 23:46

3 Answers 3

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You're solving the wrong problem.

You're trying to prevent unauthorized charges by following the law on how authorized charges are handled. But the problem you're trying to solve is someone doing something they were not supposed to be doing to begin with, so what makes you think they'd adhere to your demands on this?

Credit cards have very strong fraud protections and chargebacks cost merchants a lot, and merchants do not want them. So a mere threat of a chargeback would be enough for most to issue a refund for an erroneous charge and remove your payment details from their systems. That is a much simpler solution, since you'd only be doing that when actually needed, which is rare.

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  1. Obviously, you'd have to devote a lot more time to managing payments. For most people, it is easier to dispute the rare fraudulent/ invalid charge after the fact than it is to proactively approve every recurring payment they have every week.
  2. For most people, the inevitable error when they forgot to approve the electric bill payment and incurred a late fee overwhelms the savings from blocking a rogue payment. Particularly when they can simply dispute that payment after the fact if it was actually incorrect.
  3. Cancelling a payment method does not mean that you don't owe the vendor the money. If you sign up for a recurring payment like the gym and decide that you're not going often enough to be worth it, you can block the gym from taking their payment. But that doesn't end your contract with the gym-- you still owe them the money. Lots of customers aren't going to be aware of this until the gym sends them to collections a year or two later.
  4. Depending on exactly what you allow/ disallow, you may experience issues with a variety of transactions where you do want the amount to change. If you go out to a restaurant, for example, the restaurant will run your card for the cost of dinner. You'll get a receipt with a line to add a tip. After you write in the tip, the merchant will go back later and update the amount of the charge to include the tip. It would be very difficult for your theoretical service to figure out whether this would count as an "additional charge" that you want to block. Other times, establishments process an authorization for a higher amount and adjust it to the actual amount before the transaction settles. If you pay for gas at the pump, the station puts through a relatively high authorization amount ($100 is a common default in the US in 2024) and then adjusts the transaction down to whatever amount of gas you actually pumped before the transaction settles.
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  • Thank you for this. 1-3 I had considered. The question about four is not that my "theoretical service" would not figure it out, but that they used a reoccurring payments without telling me. My understanding is that this legal right is specifically to block reoccurring payments, and they SHOULD always be customer driven. The fact that they are not is the problem.
    – User65535
    Commented Jul 9 at 17:02
  • @User65535 - Note that not all of your examples are likely implemented as reoccurring payments. A restaurant meal is not normally implemented as a reoccurring payment. It is a single payment that happens to have the amount changed between the time it was approved and the time it settled. Commented Jul 9 at 17:31
  • My Examples are a car hire firm, London ULEZ and Donald Trump. I am focused on the function provided by the particular law quoted in the question. If it does not block a restaurant all the better.
    – User65535
    Commented Jul 9 at 17:44
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    My point is that the car hire firm was not using reoccurring payments (most likely) so blocking reoccurring payments would not prevent the car hire firm transaction. If you are trying to prevent the car hire firm from changing the amount of the transaction after authorization then you would cause problems for things like restaurant meals and gas stations. And you can't rely on the legal status of preventing a reoccurring payment. Commented Jul 9 at 17:48
  • From a google this is a car hire using CPA. If there was a document explaining these things perhaps that would be an answer, I would certainly read it
    – User65535
    Commented Jul 9 at 18:17
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  1. Note that unauthorized charges are trivial to dispute and charge back. There is some hassle in getting a new card number to prevent further fraud, but at worst that means you are without that card for a week. If the problem was clearly your fault for not cancelling, though, that's on you

  2. Sone banks will let those who are really concerned about this turn their card on and off, typically from a secure web page or phone app. If your bank offers this, you could leave rarely-used cards disabled most of the time.

  3. If you're really, really concerned, some banks offer the ability to generate single use credit card numbers. That prevents a second charge from being made. However, anyone who is expecting to do a monthly pull will probably not accept such a card number in the first place.

Really, most of your concerns are easily dealt with by never signing up for anything without reading the contract, and most of the exceptions are easily dealt with by charging them back to the vendor (see point 1). You're talking about developing a nuclear flyswatter. And you're picking one of the most difficult ways to go it. I strongly suggest reconsidering both the severity of the problem and the appropriateness of your proposed solution.

If you still want to pursue it, that is no longer a Money question but a programming/AI question, which means more detailed discussion is probably out of scope here. Try an appropriate software development stack. The only way to answer whether it is possible is to try to do it, or pay someone to try to do it. Be aware that usage agreements for the systems you want to interact with may mean you aren't permitted to do it even if you somehow make it work, and being caught may have unspecified consequences starting with cancellation of that account.

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