Payments Regulator Probing String Of Payments Failures

contactless payment

Payments regulator says it is monitoring string of failures that affected payments systems at McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Greggs within five days

The UK’s Payments Service Regulator (PSR) has said it is investigating a string of IT failures that affected McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Greggs over a period of five days.

The regulator said it was reviewing the outages earlier this month amidst concern about the resilience of payments infrastructure.

The PSR said it was in contact with the businesses affected and was liaising with the Bank of England.

The failures come amidst a decline of the use of cash, from 54 percent of all payments in 2012 to 14 percent in 2022, according to UK Finance, while an increasing number of retailers are refusing to accept cash.

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Infrastructure failures

Last Wednesday hundreds of checkouts at Greggs stopped working and the bakery chain was forced to close some of its stores.

The firm blamed the matter on a “technical issue” before saying it had resolved the problem. About one-third of stores were unable to process payments.

On Friday 15 March McDonald’s was forced to close thousands of restaurants around the world, including in the UK, due to an outage that it later said was caused by a configuration change applied by an unidentified third-party technology provider.

The following day Sainsbury’s and Tesco both experienced issues with contactless payments as well as making deliveries placed via their online systems.

‘Further action’

“The PSR is aware of the recent payment issues and is assessing their nature to determine whether any further action is needed,” the PSR said in a statement.

The regulator monitors major payment systems such as Visa, MasterCard and Faster Payments and if resilience issues are identified it can refer the matter to the Bank of England.

Retailers generally do not disclose the details of their payments infrastructure, but the short space of time in which the outages occurred has raised suspicions that they were caused by a system update by a shared provider.

An electronic point of sale (EPOS) failure, for instance, could have caused problems with both user-facing payments systems and back-end barcode scanning, potentially affecting deliveries, as was the case with Sainsbury’s and Tesco.