Fri Nov 06 14:37:00 UTC 2009


The Shoprite Group has today expressed its dismay at the apparent indifference demonstrated by commercial banks in South Africa to successfully address intermittent system failures in the country’s national electronic payment system causing consumers endless frustration and leaving them disenchanted with retailers. 

All PIN-based electronic transactions, including ATM transactions, were again affected by Bankserv system failures this past week which reached a peak on Tuesday. It resulted in payments for goods being debited against consumers’ accounts while vendors received no value, leaving many consumers out of pocket and without their purchases. Retailers and consumers’ frustration alike was further fuelled by uninformed bank staff repeatedly sending shoppers back to stores to have their problems resolved. 

Shoprite Group deputy managing director Carel Goosen said today that through the supermarket group’s membership of the South African Retailers Payment Issues Forum (SARPIF) it has played a leading role in highlighting Bankserv systems issues over the past four years. There has been no noticeable improvement and Shoprite is now lobbying at Reserve Bank level in an effort to force banks to resolve the problems. 

“Bankserv is an automated clearing house owned by the banks and provides interbank electronic transaction switching and settlement services to the South African banking sector. When an authorisation request is sent from the vendors to the banks via Bankserv, the bank sends an approval to the vendor and puts an authorisation against a shopper’s account after which the money is withdrawn by the banks from the account and placed in a holding account. However, an intermittent malfunction in the system causes the value never to be sent to the vendor which results in an uncompleted sale and therefore the transaction is declined. In the mean-time many customers, while still at the checkout, receive a mobile phone text message from their bank that the transaction has been completed, but the information on the cashier’s terminal advises that the transaction has been declined. 

“This past Tuesday at 11:00 the interbank switch developed processing problems which affected all debit card transactions and some credit card transactions. Two hours later Bankserv was still investigating a solution and retailers continued to experience random declines and timeouts throughout the week. 

“While retailers obviously lose turnover when this happens, the real issue for the Shoprite Group is the detrimental effect Bankserv’s system failures have on the supermarket group’s service levels. Our aim is to provide consumers with a hassle-free shopping experience and we have invested millions of rands into world-class information technology systems with which to make that possible for our customers. Unfortunately we have no control over the National Payment System and we therefore hope that Reserve Bank intervention will bring a speedy resolution to the problem for the benefit of our customers,” Goosen concluded. 

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