IT glitches left 7m unable to pay with card

More than seven million people in the UK were left unable to use their debit or credit cards due to an IT or technical crash in the last year, according to research from Which?.

A survey of more than 2,091 consumers conducted by the consumer watchdog found one in seven respondents were unable to use their card due to a serious outage in the last year, with half (49 per cent) saying they were unable to pay for goods and services at the point of sale as a result.

The glitches also seem to be a recurring nuisance, with five per cent saying they had experienced the problem more than once.

One in 10 of those unable to use their card or make a payment told Which? they had suffered a financial penalty as a result and the same proportion said their credit score was damaged because they missed a bill or payment.

Which? said the results of the findings - which come a year after a failure of Visa’s systems triggered a Europe-wide payments meltdown - demonstrated the vulnerability of digital banking and payments and reinforced the need for traditional payment methods like cash to be protected during the transition to a future where digital alternatives are mainstream.

Separate analysis from Which? that looked at Financial Conduct Authority records of bank IT outages also revealed that customers suffered a system failure that led to them either being locked out of their account or unable to make a payment almost every day in the last 12 months.

Overall, there were 362 incidents reported by UK banks in the year to 31 March this year.

The research also came as Which? hosted a summit focussed on finding solutions to the UK’s cash infrastructure debate with leading figures from government and the financial services and payments industries.

The event followed the publication of the Access to Cash Review which outlined the impact of increasingly digital financial services and bank branch closures on eight million of the UK’s most vulnerable people and those living in remote areas.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “Digital payments have enhanced many people’s lives – but many still rely on cash and all of us risk being shut out of paying for goods and services when technology lets us down.

“Meanwhile, people across the UK risk being stripped of their ability to access cash through the double blow of widespread bank branch and cashpoint closures.”

He called for further action from the government to explore all options, including legislation, to “ensure cash is protected for those for whom it is a necessity and as a vital back-up for when digital systems fail”.

Peter Kirk, managing director of financial services at Accenture, commented: “Access to online banking is increasingly important as banks pursue their digital strategies, but it is creating engagement gaps among certain UK consumer groups.

“Banks must tackle this and use the digital revolution as an opportunity to plug these gaps, specifically through education and improving access to their channels of financial advice, both physically and virtually.”

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