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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"The unexpected disruption has affected retailers at one of the busiest times of the year"
 real 28k

Chair of Action 2000 Don Cruickshank
"Lets not confuse contingency plans with what will happen"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 08:33 GMT
Retailers braced for bug

card terminal Shoppers had trouble paying for goods by debit and credit card

Businesses were braced for further millennium bug problems on Thursday following difficulties with thousands of credit card swipe machines which failed to recognise the year 2000.

The government says it cannot rule out further glitches after problems affecting 5% of swipe card terminals in shops were identified on Wednesday.

HSBC, which issued 14,000 card swipe machines to retailers, says the machines will be working by 1 January.

Many people think the millennium bug will strike as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. The truth is that it could happen any time a computer uses the date 2000.
Action 2000
A software problem has meant that since Tuesday many credit card terminals have not accepted transactions from credit and debit cards, such as Switch, Mastercard and Visa.

Credit card transactions are stored on a central computer which covers a four-day period. Hence any transactions which took place since Tuesday have covered the 1 January date.

Since the problem emerged, many retailers have resorted to pen and paper to complete credit and debit transactions.

The HSBC spokeswoman said: "Customers can still pay. The problem is a minor one and can be fixed by pressing a series of keys."

She said the problem would disappear on 1 January.

Racal, which makes the terminals, apologised to customers for the "short-term minor technical difficulty".

"We are sorry for the temporary glitch. We can only apologise to customers for any inconvenience," a spokesman said.

But many shops and restaurants, who are having one of their busiest periods, are furious at the software problems and wonder why they were not anticipated.


Don Cruickshank, chairman for Action 2000, the government body set up to warn about millennium computer problems, said: "We have been expecting niggles like this - inconvenient for the shoppers and retailers affected and I'm disappointed at the banks, particularly HSBC, for not picking this one up."

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Cruickshank added: "We will see, particularly on 4 January, a number of similar inconveniences but the key thing is essential services, such as banks, have teams in place to cope."

The so-called millennium bug may strike computers which recognise the year by just two digits.

The fear is that when 1999 becomes 2000, the computer will read the switch from '99 to '00 and think it is 1900 rather than 2000.

The fault will renew worries that the Y2K bug will bring the UK grinding to a halt, despite persistent claims by business and government that key computer systems are compliant.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  Business
Bug fears keep rates on hold
30 Nov 99 |  Business
'Millennium bug nearly beaten'
30 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Y2K problems start small

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