Starbucks customers across the country have been charged lump sums of more than £100 for various individual purchases made months ago, while some have been billed for the same sales twice.
If you've been affected, you may be offered vouchers if you contact the coffee chain, and if you've been charged twice, Starbucks says you'll be automatically refunded.
The situation came to light after a number of customers of Starbucks' Saffron Walden branch, in Essex, were left counting the cost of a "technical fault" affecting electronic payments. However, it's since transpired that other UK branches are experiencing the same issue.
The problem is twofold:
- Some customers have discovered they've been bulk charged for payments made weeks or even months ago – in some cases this has led to impacted individuals becoming overdrawn and incurring bank charges.
- Others have been hit with duplicate charges for the same purchase.
Starbucks has admitted the technical glitch has affected "a small number of UK stores", but when we asked exactly which UK branches have experienced this fault, a spokesperson for the coffeehouse chain refused to tell us.
Nevertheless, we understand Starbucks' Bishop's Stortford branch, in Hertfordshire, its Basildon branch in Essex, and its store in the Kingston Centre in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, may also have suffered the glitch.
If you've been on the receiving end of a large one-off Starbucks charge and you're not a patron of the branches mentioned above, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Backdating of payments blamed on 'technical fault'
It's understood that certain customers have recently been billed for numerous individual payments – dating back as far as February – in one go, while some have reported they've been wrongly charged duplicate payments.
We were contacted by one regular customer of the Saffron Walden Starbucks who was left at boiling point after her bank account was debited almost £60 last week for previous purchases.
She told us: "I've noticed that Starbucks have processed all of my transactions from the last few months in one go. Lots of other people in my town have been similarly affected – and I suspect this may be a nationwide story, which deserves further investigation."
The customer, who asked not to be named, has joined a Facebook group set up to discuss Starbucks' payment problems in Saffron Walden, where certain members have apparently been billed more than £100.
Meanwhile, local newspaper the Saffron Walden Reporter has spoken to a customer who reportedly incurred an overdraft charge and saw a direct debit payment bounce as a result of money being taken out of her account late by Starbucks.
Lucy Trimnell told the paper: "I have to manage my money quite carefully and this large amount coming out has seen me fall into my overdraft, for which I have been charged. A direct debit payment, which comes out of the same account, also bounced and I got charged for that as well.
"I do check my balance quite regularly, but I can't say I look through my statements that closely, so I had no idea that they hadn't been charging me for coffee since March. I contacted my bank but they said companies have six months to claim payment so there's nothing they can do."
Duplicate charges for the same purchase
Sophie, another angry Starbucks customer of its Saffron Walden branch, claims to have suffered duplicate charges as well as seeing money leaving her bank account late.
She told us: "[Starbucks] has taken £58 in duplicate payments from me, I have now Visa-disputed these, but over £100 [has been] taken [in total]. I have had no luck with Starbucks customer services – one lady even said she was unaware of the issue and blamed my bank for it.
"I have waited for a call back for 24 hours now and have also called them around 12 times since yesterday at 8.30am. My partner has had £30 in duplicate payments and had no luck with his bank."
Elsewhere, a customer who uses Starbucks' Bishop's Stortford branch has told us that not only have she and her daughters been charged late, but that Starbucks has billed her for the same purchases twice.
She says: "I phoned my bank and they checked on the dates and said that they had been taken out twice for the same date. They have initiated a refund of the charges for me.
"I am very upset that not only did they take payments months late but then took the payments again. I am now waiting to see how many more duplicate payments Starbucks are going to take from my account."
Starbucks has responded by claiming the issue that led to customers being charged twice has now been fixed and that those who have been impacted by the fault will be automatically refunded.
A spokesperson told us: "A technical problem which caused some customers using debit or credit cards to be charged twice has been identified and fixed. We can confirm that this issue was isolated to a small number of stores and has now been fully resolved. Customers will be automatically refunded and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused."
I've been affected – what are my rights?
While the late charges are inconvenient for customers and can potentially wreak havoc with people's finances, in most cases the amounts being charged don't appear to be incorrect (just combined into one big payment).
Companies are given a certain amount of leeway in terms of the time it takes for them to extract funds from customers' accounts, so it would seem there isn't much your bank will do to help you here.
However, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) says that in this particular instance it would expect banks to look at the situation on an individual basis and be more sensitive to customers who have incurred charges after slipping into their overdraft or missing direct debit payments. Any customer whose bank isn't playing ball over charges relating to the Starbucks error should contact the FOS.
Starbucks has told us it's providing vouchers to customers who have been charged an unexpected lump sum payment "on a case-by-case basis".
But it's worth pointing out that Starbucks doesn't appear to be proactively offering vouchers and so you should contact its customer services team to lodge your complaint and potentially bag a free coupon.
The Saffron Walden customer who originally contacted us said: "Those who have complained have been given a full apology and vouchers by way of compensation. I received an email from Starbucks customer service yesterday, who apologised for what they described as a technical issue, and offered to send me vouchers by way of compensation."
Duplicate charges for the same purchase
Starbucks claims it is automatically refunding money to customers who have ended up paying for the same purchase more than once.
If you discover you've been charged for the same purchase twice you may want to notify your bank, which should be able to refund the duplicate charge if Starbucks hasn't already. You may also want to report the issue to Starbucks itself.