Visa outage – what happened?
01 June 2018 – the country came to a standstill. Well almost. It did at shops, garages, restaurants, tolls…. Over 95% of debit cards are run on the Visa network. And on a Friday, roughly between 2.30pm and 10.30pm, whilst people were trying to get home, treat themselves to a meal out, use the cashpoint, buy travel tickets, get ready for the weekend… Visa stopped working. People couldn’t get money, couldn’t pay for anything and some later found that where they had tried several times to pay for something, then paid for cash, that money had left their account.
Visa said “The issue was the result of a hardware failure. We have no reason to believe this was associated with any unauthorised access or malicious event.”
The problems were in the back-end payment processing system. Normally the trader takes a customer’s card payment and then the Visa system liaises between the trader’s and customer’s banks to enable the payment to be taken. On Friday this all went down, intermittently. It even affected some Mastercard customers.
Our goal is to ensure all Visa cards work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Due to a systems failure, we fell well short of this today. We apologise to all our partners & especially to Visa cardholders. We’re currently operating at close to normal levels. https://t.co/JGlzs8anbI
— Visa UK (@VisaUK) June 1, 2018
What to do if affected by the VISA outage?
A Visa spokesperson said: “The technical issue we experienced has been resolved. Our network is working normally. If you attempted a Visa transaction that did not complete as a result of this issue, you should not be charged.
A small number of cardholders may have pending transactions that could be limiting their spending ability. We are working with your banks to resolve this.”
Usually, when things go wrong with a payment you would contact the company with whom you have a contract. So, for example if you buy a jumper from a shop and it has taken two payments you would contact the shop.
However, Visa has stated that customers affected by the issues should contact their banks. There is still confusion around regarding what you should do. But in reality, given the current advice (which is not much) from Visa and banks you should contact your bank in the first instance.
Visa made a statement on Twitter on 02 June 2018. It has not tweeted since (as of 07 June 2018) except to respond to all queries with details for the customer services team.
We’re aware some cardholders may have pending transactions that could be limiting their spending ability. We are working with your banks to resolve this. You should not be charged for transactions that did not complete https://t.co/UNLaJHixV7
— Visa UK (@VisaUK) June 2, 2018
In order to claim you will need to show copies of the transactions and any other evidence to show it was failure and should not have gone through. You should have been given a “receipt” to show that the transaction was cancelled. In the case of online purchases, you won’t necessarily have this but you will have a copy of the actual purchase if it finally went through. Show the copy of the receipt from where you paid in cash too.
You should allow 7 days for pending transactions to leave from your account. So it may be worth you checking with your bank to speed up the cancellation of any pending ones.
You should also send copies of anything that proves you were left out of pocket too. So for example, phone calls regarding the issue, bank charges because you went overdrawn due to the bank taking too much money etc.
If you don’t get satisfaction form the bank’s customer service, or let’s face it they are going to be a bit busy and you want to get to the front of the queue you can contact the CEO. Contact details for banks can be found here on the ceoemail.com website. You won’t get a response from the CEO but it will be escalated to his or her team.
Government interest in the VISA outage
There has been much discussion, including calls for the CEO of Visa Europe to face questions from Parliament. Nicky Morgan the Treasury Committee chairman wrote to the Visa CEO asking a number of questions. Visa has until 15 June 2018 to respond. After this time if the responses are not satisfactory Morgan has said that the CEO, Charlotte Hogg may be requested to provide oral evidence.
Hogg has been asked:
- To explain what is being done to prevent anything like this happening again.
- To specify how many cards were affected once the issue was resolved.
- If any customers had money leave from their accounts despite the transactions not being completed. (We now know that they have so the question should be how many).
- If both customers and businesses will receive compensation due to the inconvenience. (It is worth noting that many businesses lost huge amounts of money in lost trade and they will more than likely seek to claim their losses. Whether Visa will publicly announce their plans to do this or wait for customers and businesses to request this to lessen the amount they pay out remains to be seen!)
Visa and humour
Whilst thousands of consumers and businesses struggled on Friday some people used the issue to show off some brilliant wit! I love these:
— Nick Harvey (@mrnickharvey) June 1, 2018
TSB: “we’re going to create the biggest IT disaster that the world has ever seen”
— Ryan Orchard (@RyanOrchard96) June 1, 2018
and if you go to the thread on this one the replies are pretty good too!
While #Visa payments are down, we should spare a thought for all the retail workers who will have to feign amusement as every customer without fail remarks that they 'guess it must be free then'.
— Ryan Barrett (@Ryanbrrtt) June 1, 2018
At petrol station when #VISA went down. Bloke b4 me had no cash so they asked him to return+pay tomorrow. Said he would. Asked him 4 his phone 4 insurance. He said no. Asked for his name. He said “dave”. Didn’t take his plate, surname or address. Pretty sure he’s not going back
— Paul Stubbs (@InDerby) June 1, 2018
However, the Visa social media showed none of the humour displayed from KFC earlier in the year when they faced complaints about no chicken.
Hi Susan. Our consumer enquiries team are on hand to answer your questions. Please contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org
— Visa UK (@VisaUK) June 7, 2018
This response was the standard response to every query since the outage! So don’t expect help from the Visa social media team!