When consumer technology breaks

Today in the U.K. and across Europe, people have been experiencing what some have described as ‘the apocalypse’.  Small shops as well as larger traders have been unable to process debit and credit card transactions.  This has come as a huge problem for customers who’s only means of paying for goods have been their collection of cards.

The first credit card in the U.K. was issued by Barclay’s Bank in 1966.  At the time of writing, around 164 million cards from different vendors are in circulation.  With so much reliance on this form of payment, any sort of failure can be catastrophic.  People can end up being stranded away from home because they don’t have any other means of paying for services such as rail fares.

Supermarkets have been hit particularly badly.  Customers have described scenes around checkouts as ‘bedlam’ with shopping trolleys being left where they stand.  Meanwhile, their ‘keepers’ try to find some other means of paying for their purchases.

I wrote a post a while back (why you need a backup plan).  It stressed the importance of keeping your data safe in the event of hardware failure.  It seems to me that considering the large number of transactions processed each day, banks and other financial services should provide backup infrastructure to prevent these single points of failure causing so much chaos.

I’m not certain if Visa and all other agencies involved in payment processing will learn anything from this, I hope they do.



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