This is a breathtaking story which, so far, has come to no conclusion. Kehar Lalli, who runs Lalli’s Superstore in Walsall, called to say that in June he got a small chargeback from Elavon (£20). This was followed by another bill for £340. Then another for £1,500. In August a further chargeback of £1,946.44. These were all contactless transactions processed through his Payzone terminal. The transactions ranged from £5 to £25, the majority being for £20.

When he called Elavon he was asked for copies of the receipts. He sent them. Elavon looked into it and said that the terminal was running in offline mode, which was apparently wrong. Elavon also said, during lengthy email exchanges, that in February it had told PZ that every machine must be in online mode. Elavon said the root cause of the problem lies with the terminal and that they had informed PZ.

Kehar rang Payzone and they put an engineer onto it. PZ also confirmed at the time that there could not be ‘forced transactions’ through the terminal (which we assume means fraudulent).

After some time PZ said they had talked to Elavon, but added that they would not be accepting liability. The next day they changed the terminal.

Kehar has stopped accepting contactless cards. He forwarded some 20 emails to me that he has sent/received from Elavon/PZ. Many of these express his concern for his bank balance.

I wrote to Elavon, Payzone and the Financial Ombudsman, pointing out there was no way that an independent retailer could incur £4k-worth of fraudulent contactless transactions from customers in such a short period. And there was no way that he should be held liable.

I have not received any sort of reply from Elavon, but they told Kehar: “We have provided Payzone all the details of the transactions and the possible causes; however, the chargebacks are valid, and I am not able to issue a refund as the money went to the cardholders.”

Payzone sent me this: “Mr Lalli has a contract with us for his terminal and one directly with Elavon as his acquirer. We have looked into this, although have no direct information or access to the customer’s transactional information.

“The chargeback amounts stated in the complaint do not match those of the figures provided by Elavon. This needs to be picked directly up by Elavon. Elavon have indeed advised us of the issue being related to our terminal being in an offline mode. This is not substantiated by our technical team. There are no issues with our terminals, we have told Elavon of this. We replaced the terminal to offer reassurance that there was no problem.”

The best, and quickest, response came from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The press officer not only rang me, but then sent a longish email on the ways the FOS can help and with links for Kehar to follow up.

And here’s the good bit. When I spoke to Kehar the day before writing this, he was about to send all the correspondence to his daughter, a solicitor. And he was going to consult one of his mates, a barrister.

After that, it’s off to the ombudsman.