John Lewis embroiled in ageism row over denying credit to people without mobile phones

John Lewis has been accused of “discriminating against the elderly and vulnerable” after rejecting credit card applications from customers who do not have a mobile phone.

Loyal customers will be stripped of their John Lewis Partnership Card on October 31 unless they are approved for the retailer’s new card, which is being relaunched with credit provider NewDay.

In order to apply, John Lewis requires customers to have a mobile phone for verification purposes – much to the distress of older cardholders who do not have a mobile device. Many have held accounts since the card launched almost 20 years ago.

Cynthia White, 82, from London, who uses the Partnership Card for over 90pc of her spending, was shocked when the retailer told her she would not be approved for a new card.

Dr White has poor eyesight and problems with dexterity that make using a mobile extremely difficult. “It is not that people in my position are unwilling to use mobile phones. It is a matter of physical capacity,” she said.

“This is discrimination against the elderly and vulnerable in society.”

The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, requires credit card providers to use “two factor authentication” to verify customers.

Mobile phone authentication is considered the most secure method. But where customers struggle to use it, companies should provide them with an alternative such as a phone call to a landline, according to UK Finance, the banking trade body. 

Although NewDay allows customers to verify themselves via landline once they have been approved for a card, it does not allow this during the application process.

This inflexibility was criticised as “deeply unfair” by consumer rights campaigner Martyn James.

He said: “Businesses have a moral – and sometimes regulatory – obligation not to discriminate against people who don’t have phones or even internet access.”

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, the country’s biggest charity for the elderly, said: “Any business that denies access to a product or service on the basis of not having a smartphone runs the risk of excluding a significant number of older customers.”

It is not just those without mobile phones who have been rejected. Furious cardholders have taken to review websites saying that they have been turned down without explanation.

Alan White, 78, from Nottinghamshire, was rejected even though he has no outstanding debts, a good credit score and always paid off the full amount on his card, which he has used since it first launched.

Read More: John Lewis embroiled in ageism row over denying credit to people without mobile phones

2022-09-10 22:00:00

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