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Visa puts the blame for service disruption on hardware failure

Anti-utopian scenes (alike ones from “The Handmaid’s Tale”) of people being unable to use their debit and credit cards for their usual Friday shopping, travel, and payment of fees and bills, have become real for Visa cardholders over the past 16 hours.

The first reports about the problems emerged yesterday afternoon in Europe, as Visa card transactions did not work for those trying to pay online or via POS. Those trying to pay via contactless cards had most problems, whereas ATMs quickly ran out of cash and queues formed at banks. Irate passengers could not catch their planes and taxis, nor the subway train to get home. The rush hour became a nightmare for many, especially in the UK, France, Germany and Italy, where the majority of the reports appear to have come from.

The Twitter account of Visa Europe was flooded with angry comments by disgruntled cardholders. The lack of updates for more than 6 hours was one of the reasons for the rightful discontent of those affected.

Around 10pm BST, the company finally published a long-awaited update stating that the issue was a result of a hardware failure and not a cyber attack.

22:08 BST 01.06.18

Earlier today, Visa had a system failure that impacted customers across Europe.

Our goal is to ensure all Visa cards work reliably 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We fell well short of this goal today and we apologise to all of our partners, and most especially, to Visa cardholders.

Visa cardholders can now use their Visa cards as we are currently operating at close to normal levels.

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”.

This morning, another update was published:

Update – 04:32 BST 02.06.18

Visa has resolved a technical issue which occurred yesterday in Europe and prevented some consumers from using Visa for payments.

The issue was the result of a hardware failure within one of our European systems and is not associated with any unauthorised access or cyberattack.

Visa Europe’s payment system is now operating at full capacity, and Visa account holders can now use Visa for any of their purchases and at ATMs, as they normally would.

“Our goal is to ensure all Visa payments work reliably 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We fell well short of this goal today and we apologise to all of our partners and Visa account holders for any inconvenience this may have caused,” Al Kelly – Chief Executive Officer, Visa Inc”.

The reactions to the latest announcement, however, were mixed. Many users continue to report issues with their transactions processing. Others say that they were charged several times – each time when they tried to pay via their cards and then paid cash. There are also questions about the exact nature of the cause of the outage.

The problems raised questions about the (dis)advantages of a cashless society and the future of new technologies, like DLT and cryptocurrencies.

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