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By | John Leyden 8th April 2008 12:09

HSBC e-payments system goes titsup (again)

Calls for compensation from bungling bank

Merchants are furious at HSBC UK after the bank's e-payments system fell over for an extended period for the second time in less than a fortnight.

Retailers using the system have not been able to process transactions since around 5pm (BST) on Monday. Problems with processing credit card payments continued into Tuesday afternoon.

Similar problems left merchants unable to take payments for two days over the weekend of 29-30 March. E-commerce firms using the service have intensified earlier calls for compensation.

In a recorded message, HSBC said that its application developers and database teams worked throughout the night with its technology suppliers to fix the problem, so far without success. It said it was unable to say as yet when services would be restored, and extended "profound apologies for the ongoing disruption".

HSBC's e-payments system is attractive for retailers because of the relative speed in which the money can be transferred into online bank accounts. Merchants who rely on HSBC are angry about the latest outage.

"HSBC's ePayments system has gone down again. It's almost impossible to get any feedback from them as to when it's going to come back up. We have some very unhappy clients," a web development firm told El Reg.

Merchants also report HSBC is failing to keep retailers informed about the latest problem, repeating a complaint cited at the time of the last outage.

Another reader reports that the credit card payment facility from HSBC has been down since yesterday (Monday) afternoon. "Our website uses HSBC exclusively to take credit card payments and this further outage is causing us more lost business," he told us. "Despite the suggestions made on the recorded message on their phone system last time, no explanation for the previous outage has been forthcoming - let alone any discussion of compensation.

"When contacting the support line this time around, I was connected after a long wait to their call centre in India, where I was told that the service had been down since around 5pm, that they hoped it would be up soon... The site is still down now.

"The service levels from HSBC are absolutely terrible."

Online discussion boards are filling up with comments from HSBC merchants expressing similar frustrations.

Approached by The Reg on Tuesday morning, HSBC's UK press office was unable to confirm or deny the outage, much less comment on what plans it had to avoid the problem happening again. Nor was there any comment on plans to compensate customers.

Reg readers report that HSBC's e-payments site also went down for a day in January, making a total of five days of outage in the last three months.

HSBC's track record of dealing with technology issues more generally is poor. In March the bank forgot to renew its digital certificate, causing customers to see a message saying that its site could not be verified as secure.

Earlier this week the bank admitted that it has misplaced 370,000 customer details, containing in an unencrypted disc that it posted to a reinsurance firm a month ago. ®

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