Oyster Milk

By Rob Last edited 158 months ago
Oyster Milk

Transport For London has announced today that's it's planning to introduce an 'e-money' element to the Oyster card. The idea being that Oyster Card holders will be able to use them to "buy newspapers and milk and pay for car parking".

So far most of the media has taken the "is this the end for cash" angle on this one, but there are some other questions which will undoubtedly arise. Like, if the Oyster card can track commuters isn't this 'innovation' just an extension of loyalty cards and RFID chips?

And what about the, erm 'usability issues' that the Oyster Card has experienced so far? Do you really want to argue with your local newsagent over whether or not you just paid for your copy of the Observer? Or, imagine you're hungover and desparate for a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes but the corner shop has a glitch in its Oyster machine? Nightmare.

Are we sounding like Daily Mail-style reactionary types here? We don't mean to, we just assume that maybe Transys would want to get the whole transport element of their business running smoothly before they move on to really important things like papers and milk.

Last Updated 04 March 2005


You're Daily Mail reactionists.

You make it sound as if everyone has problems with their Oyster cards, and that it's been an unmitigated disaster. Except, helpfully, you give no proof for these assertions.

While using the Underground and the bus network I've not had a single problem: and the reluctance of the train companies to get involved isn't probably the fault of anyone but the train companies. I'm unaware of any of my acquaintances who have problems.

But, if you want to just pointlessly slag things off, then feel free: that's wht we're good at in Britain, ain't it?


James - I don't think we were 'slagging off' this idea at all - we were just raising the inevitable questions that will be asked by everyone - will it work and will our purchases be tracked?

And I don't think we insinuated that 'everyone' had problems with Oyster Cards - but there has been a lot of problems with the implementations and it's taken TfL and Transys a whiel to get it sorted out.

We were raising concerns not pointlessly slagging off.


You make it sound as if it's something new but what other purpose would a chip in a card serve. Haven't you found that the cash function in debit cards already allows that, but of course I forget, in this country you're a few years behind other EU countries when it comes to banking and payments.


Look, anyone that uses an Oystercard is providing London underground with a phenomenal amount of information already through it's tracking system.

I for one am really uncomfortable with the idea that they can now tie in someone's journeys on the tube with purchases when off it. A little bit of tinkering and you can start to build up a pattern of movements of the holder simply by looking at all transactions in time order in conjunction with their movements on the tube.

If the mayor/government/random authoritarian body suggested that everyone in London ought to be tagged in order track their movements for some undisclosed reason, you'd tell them to piss off and no mistake. Why should this be any different?

Frankie Roberto

Tracking my arse. Do you really think that an itemised list of your purchases would be recorded and sent to TfL? All that will be recorded is the total amount deducted from card, time, date and place of purchase. So, identical to Debit and Credit Cards then...



If you want paranoia about being tracked, just wait until mobile phones start being used for 'micro-payments' (location, time, voice calls, text messages, buying patterns, &c.) The amount of information available should actually be reassuring to the conspiracy theorist. There's no way 'The Man' is going to be arsed trying to keep tabs on us with such an overload of information.

Privacy Polly

Oyster is nothing but a joke, a serious and dangerous infrigement of our civil liberties and a tracking device - even the polices' latest toy.
Aussurances from the mayor of london that we 'dont have to register' certain cards (prepay/daily/weekly travelcards) is a blatant lie in so much as if anything happens to your card ie, card failure (it's their card, therefore their equipment) you are not entitled to any 'after care' support. If your card fails and you try to sort it out, they try to force you to register it via a scheming backdoor way to capture your data. They say (probably illegally) that you HAVE to fill out a replacement form AND give your private details. To be even more 1984 about it, they DEMAND your ID and PROOF of address. This is certainly not what an unregistered oyster card is about. They claim you should treat unregistered cards 'as cash' but when it comes to any problems they demand you register it for a replacement or you lose the money. This is illegal, unfair and a breach of the statutory rights of a consumer, especially when they have said you have to right not to register them in the first place. Try exercising this right when you have a problem and you encounter severe problems.

Additionally, it's billed as a 'convenient' way to travel, including 'online top up' (where they capture your Credit card data). This is a big lie. They apparently claim they can't refund failed card balances over the phone or at a station, or even online, but yet they DO seem to be able to add money from a credit card. Seems to me the whole process is about tracking, obtaining data on londoners and abusing privacy of commuters.

My advice to anyone is NOT to register your card, and should there be a failure DEMAND that your card balance be credited to a new one. Do not get into filling out forms or pandering to demands for ID etc. This is illegal. A passenger who choses not to register a card cannot be forced to reregister the card for the purposes of replacement.
Complain directly to Ken livingstone via the mayor of london website since it was him who introduced the cards and bragged non stop about assuring londonders they would be protected from snooping.

Also, a point about visitors to London. They are conned into buying oyster cards and paying 3 pound deposits, only to be refused refunds when they leave, as they are made to fill out forms and only in 3 months will they get a voucher for the deposit, only sent to UK addresses and must be cashed at a london tube station within 2 months...what a scam!
Considering they already have millions of oyster card deposits at 3 pounds each that is millions of pounds of our money sitting with TFL earning them interest. We dont get to see this money ever again and it's not refunded with interest. It's a massive con, and even now they try to make us use it to pay so they can even track what we eat or drink. 1984 is here.

James Bond

Everyone should just get a brand new weekly oyster card which doesn't take a deposit as yet.
Or just buy a few oyster cards and use 1 for a week then ditch it for 10 and then start using it again.
TFL claims to only track for 10 weeks at a time, so if you have 10 cards and use one after the other they can only get a weeks worth of your travel details once every 3 months. Also Dont register the card and they can't know who you are, expect that they are matching CCTV images with the exact time you use the card, still they wont have a name.

And to the person who is going on and on about debit / credit card tracking, that is different. You can chose when to use your card. It doesn't record what you purchased, just where and the date. This information is not passed to other companies for the purposes of monitoring your movements its only done to show on your statement in case of dispute. If you dont want tracking you just use it less or according to where you want to be shown up on which database. Oyster does not allow you to wipe your details or opt out of ridiculous intrusive tracking.

Note that with oyster you cannot hand over a travelcard to a begger anymore unless its a paper card. That's what it was brought in for, to maximise profit for TFL, not to give us a better deal or make life eaiser. This current obsession with tracking has gone too far. Only in the UK do people tolerate this.