Turning your cell phone into a wallet could cost you
Posted by Michael McCauley at 09/23/11 10:28 AM

There’s been a lot of hype lately about how consumers in the U.S. will soon be able to make purchases at stores with a tap of their smartphones. Google was the latest company to jump onto the mobile payments bandwagon when it launched Google Wallet earlier this month.

But while mobile payment services promise a new and convenient way for consumers to shop, not all payment options provide the same protections when something goes wrong with a transaction.

You can help ensure consumers are protected. Click here to send the wireless companies a message today..

Consumers Union launched a campaign in June to make sure consumers who pay with their cell phones are fully protected if their phone is lost or stolen or if a merchant makes a billing mistake or they’re not satisfied with a purchase. We spelled out the risks for consumers in a report in June and called on cell phone companies to provide consumers with the same strong protections they are guaranteed by law when they shop with a credit card.

If your mobile payment purchase is linked to your credit card or debit card then you get tough legal protections that limit how much money you can lose. But if your mobile payment purchases wind up on your cell phone bill, your protections can vary widely depending on what’s in your phone contract. That leaves consumers at risk.

Since our report came out in June, we’ve been slowly hearing back from the top wireless carriers who insist that they provide adequate protections for consumers. But that’s not what we found when we reviewed their contracts. Some of the protections they claim to provide are nowhere to be found when we reviewed the fine print. And none of the top cell phone companies provide the same high level of protection to all consumers for mobile payment purchases that you get with a credit card.

How can consumers count on the protections they need if the wireless carriers won’t spell out those rights in the contract?

Help us deliver a message to the wireless carriers: Click here to tell them to give consumers the strong protections they need when they make purchases with their cell phones.