Ask Sindie: The trials and errors of chip and pin

What if you don't have the new card?... Landlords and students' rights
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The Independent Online

Q: Last week, I tried to pay for £20 of groceries on my local high street with my debit card. But I was told I couldn't do so as my card doesn't yet have chip and pin. I know the rules have changed but surely the shopkeeper was mistaken?

Without cash, I had to leave and drove to a branch of Tesco. Using the self-serve checkout, I swiped the same card through to pay and was worried by the absence of anti-fraud systems.

First, there was no request for my signature - my receipt just popped out into my hand - meaning anyone could have stolen the card and used it freely. Second, there was no pin pad for shoppers with chip and pin cards to use. Can you explain the mess?

IT, London

A: You've been caught up in chip and pin's teething troubles. In the first instance, your local grocer was at fault. As your debit card is not yet chip-enabled, you clearly couldn't pay this way.

The retailer should have inserted the card into his pin pad anyway. The chip and pin network has been set up so that the software would have immediately told him your card didn't have a pin - and to accept your signature instead.

At Tesco, a spokeswoman says installation of chip and pin machines at the self-serve checkouts is rolling out, but gives no deadline.

She adds that these checkouts have been a lower priority. Very low levels of fraud take place here as shoppers can buy only a basketful of items - not a big trolley of goods - and staff members patrol the checkouts to discourage fraudsters.

Don't forget that any financial loss to the customer from card crime will be covered as long as they aren't negligent with their cards. When you get your chip-enabled plastic, do not disclose your pin number or write it down somewhere it can easily be discovered.

Q: My student daughter is sorting out a move in the summer to her first shared house in Nottingham. But the landlord wants her and her two friends each to pay £750 as a deposit - amounting to twice the monthly rent. This seems a huge sum; can he ask for this?

We're also worried about her not getting her money back at the end of the contract.

Is there any way she can be sure of a fair hearing in case anything goes wrong with the landlord?

JA, Leicestershire

A: As deposits go, it's high - the average for students is £480, surveys have found - but two months' rent isn't unusual.

The bigger problem is your second concern: one in five of all tenants in the private rented sector struggle to reclaim their money, according to government figures, and students can make easy targets.

With landlords often living hundreds of miles away from university towns, it can be hard to track down a rogue property owner.

However, a voluntary scheme exists, which some landlords have joined, to offer tenants peace of mind.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) in effect ring-fences the deposit by using a separate property agent to whom the landlord is affiliated. In the event of a deposit dispute with the landlord, the case will be passed to an independent adjudicator.

Unfortunately, only 1,000 agents are currently members of the scheme.

If your daughter's prospective landlord isn't linked to a member, and she isn't yet committed to the current property, she could log on to www.tds.gb.com to find an affiliated landlord.

Note that from October this year, new rules will force any landlord who isn't already connected to the TDS to hand over their own deposit to a government-backed scheme. They won't be able to demand a deposit unless they do.

Until then, there are other steps to take. Ensure your daughter completes an inventory check that also lists the condition of household appliances. This should be agreed with the landlord, signed and dated.

She should also get a receipt for the deposit and, when her tenancy is up, the landlord should review the property in her presence.

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Sindie at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email sindie@independent.co.uk. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given

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