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Australia: Cash Rescues Retailers from Card Outage

Categories : Cash and Crises, Cash covers a broad range of transactions, Cash does not require a technology infrastructure, Cash ensures competition among payment instruments
February 27, 2024
Tags : Australia, Card payments, Cash, outages
Over the past few months, outages have brought down card payments in France (Wordline), Spain (Redsys), the U.K. (HSBC), Colombia (Bancaída), Uruguay (Fiserv) and now Australia (Wordline), to name but a few. Lloyds of London has warned that a major cyberattack on the global payments system could cost the world economy USD3.5 trillion. Can cash come to the rescue?
George Lekakis

Associate Editor BankingDay.

This post is also available in: Spanish

This article was first published on Banking Day and is republished here with the authorisation of the editor.

Thousands of retailers and professional service providers across the country [Australia] were unable to accept card payments on Wednesday after a telecommunications outage paralysed merchant terminals operated by the ANZ Worldline joint venture.
The protracted outage began at around 8.30 in the morning and disabled retailers’ terminals for up to eight hours.
ANZ Wordline was inundated with calls from terminal users and conceded on its website that its phone centre was unable to meet the demand.
Disgruntled retailers took to social media to broadcast their grievances about losing sales because customers did not have cash on hand to pay for purchases they wanted to make.
“We are in Bussleton WA, having Eftpos issues all day,” one retailer told ANZ Bank on the X platform at about 3.30 in the afternoon.
“Customer tries to pay and it declines or cancels and says retry – around and around we go.
“Customers are not happy and we are losing sales.”
The confusion of ANZ Worldline customers was compounded throughout the day as the bank re-directed customer enquiries to “ANZ Worldline Payments Solutions” – the joint venture merchant acquiring company in which the bank holds only a minority stake.
The joint venture took control of ANZ Bank’s merchant services business in April 2022 when a French company known as Worldline SA acquired majority ownership of the operation.
One retailer who beseeched the bank on social media to provide “some information” about what had happened to her machine was asked to contact the joint venture company.
“Can ANZ please communicate an official statement as to why Eftpos is currently down?” the merchant customer asked the bank on its Facebook page.
“Hard to run a business with no Eftpos and unable to get any information as to what is happening.
“Currently on hold on phone and not liking my chances of getting through to an actual person!”
An ANZ Bank social media officer re-directed the customer to the “ANZ Worldline Payment Solutions” website.
“As you know they are currently experiencing some lengthy wait times when calling, I am awfully sorry for any inconvenience again,” the bank officer told the merchant.
While ANZ Worldline announced on its website at 1pm that some of the affected payment terminals were returning to service, many merchants continued to experience problems and they were asked to re-initialise their machines or wait another 30 minutes if their first attempt to reactivate was unsuccessful.
However, scores of ANZ Worldline customers continued to report problems with their terminals to the website until 5pm when there was a sharp fall in reported problems.
At around 5.30 an ANZ Worldline spokesperson confirmed that service provision for payment terminals had returned to normal operation.
“Earlier today, a telecommunications issue affected some of our customers’ Eftpos terminals,” the spokesperson said.
“The issue is now resolved by our service provider and while most of the affected Eftpos terminals should now be back online, we are continuing to work with any customers experiencing ongoing issues or who need help to restart their terminal.”
The protracted outage triggered chaos at retail counters and doctors’ surgeries as merchants and cardholders mused over how goods and services would be paid for.
In most cases it seems that customers used cash to settle purchases, however given the obstacles to accessing hard currency in many rural areas it is difficult to fully gauge the impact of the outage.
In some cases confirmed to Banking Day customers had no choice but to abandon purchases.
The ANZ Worldline spokesperson confirmed that the outage affected retailers across the nation, but refused to say how many businesses were denied the ability to accept card payments.
Banking Day understands that the outage mostly impacted small businesses on specific merchant plans, but ANZ Wordline would not disclose details of the types of customers affected.
The outage incident reignited the public controversy over whether banks should have a national service obligation for provisioning cash to customers.
ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott is one of most outspoken advocates for digital banking and his company is at the forefront of withdrawing channels that provide access to cash.
The resilience of his digital first strategy comes under extreme pressure during protracted outage events like the one that occurred on Wednesday.

This post is also available in: Spanish