The public will be forced to fork out for a costly replacement if the biometric chip in their future passport or ID card breaks down, the government has admitted.
In response to a written parliamentary question about footing the bill for damaged chips, Home Office minister Andy Burnham said that in many cases passport holders or ID card holders will have to pay.
He said in a statement: "The current policy for replacing lost or damaged passports is that the customer makes a fresh application and pays the full cost for renewing the passport unless the document was clearly faulty at issue. There are no plans to change this policy for biometric passports."
He added: "Every biometric passport goes through a vigorous quality assurance process before issuing to the public which ensures the passport reaches the public in full working order. Broadly comparable arrangements will be put in place for identity cards in due course."
The passport and ID card combo is expected to cost around £93.
The London School of Economics last year calculated the cost of reissuing ID cards — including defective, lost, stolen and damaged cards, and cards reissued due to change in circumstances — at somewhere between £117m and £173m over 10 years. The cost for biometric passports could add somewhere between £128m to £257m.
Experts have warned that one risk to biometric passports is over-enthusiastic officials at passport control, who can damage the chips when putting stamps into passports.
Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for the No2ID campaign group, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "They foist an unproven technology on the public and make them pay twice for it. No other country is jumping feet first into RFID and biometrics and passing the bill so aggressively onto the public."