EXPLAINED: Why (and where) it’s still difficult to pay with card in Germany

  • Whatsapp
A sign saying 'cash only' at a branch of the store Zara in Berlin.

What’s happening?

Read More

Whether it’s in department stores, at the supermarket or at a restaurant – people across Germany have not been able to pay by card in many places since Tuesday last week. 

As The Local reported on Friday, the issue is linked to a problem with a commonly used card payments terminal from US company Verifone.

According to reports, the H5000 card machines at multiple retailers and businesses experienced a software malfunction that stopped it processing payments. 

Banner ad

The affected devices seem to be unable to connect to the network operator to carry out the transaction. After two attempts, the transaction is automatically considered “not authorised” and the payment cannot go through. 

Verifone started rolling out an update on Friday afternoon aimed at fixing the problem, but older devices have to be “manually” updated for this, meaning it’s taking longer to fix than anticipated. 

Shops and businesses in Germany with the older models have been hit especially hard by the failure, with customers only able to pay in cash – including on Saturday which is the busiest time for many retailers. 

READ ALSO: Why are card payments getting rejected in Germany?

In the below tweet, ZDF’s satirical news programme Heute Show pokes fun at Germany’s technical progress compared to other countries. The caption says: “Card payments have been broken at some German retailers since Tuesday.”

Which shops are affected – and where it is fixed?

Shops and businesses experiencing the outage usually have a sign on their door that says: ‘Keine Kartenzahlung möglich’ or ‘no card payment possible’.

In the last days it has affected independent businesses as well as larger chains.

Manual widget for ML (class=”ml-manual-widget-container”)

Discount supermarket chain Aldi Nord said it had started to exchange affected card readers over the weekend, and it hopes to replace them in all shops this week. 

The replacement of the devices was already planned at Aldi Nord, but was brought forward in view of the glitch, a spokesperson told Focus Online. 

“While there is still no functioning update from the manufacturer of the card terminals in sight for the many affected retailers in Germany, Aldi Nord organised its own simple solution for its customers over the weekend,” the spokesperson said. All the affected devices are being replaced by a newer model.

Supermarket Netto Marken-Discount also reacted over the weekend – the company said card payments are now possible again in most of its branches.

Banner ad

Are all DIY stores, drugstores, discounters and supermarkets affected?

No. Individual cash registers in shops can be affected, as well as entire branches of the likes of Edeka, Rossmann, V-Markt, Netto, Aldi Nord, Globus and Kaufland shops.

Retailers often use several card readers in one store. At Netto, for example, card payments at the self-service checkouts have been working without restrictions.

Some clothes shops experienced problems over the weekend. There have also been issues at restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, nail salons, boutiques and petrol stations.

A sign saying ‘cash only’ at a branch of the store Zara in Berlin on Saturday May 28th. Photo: Rachel Loxton

However, many businesses are not affected by the outage because they don’t use the affected model. These include Aldi Süd, Lidl, Rewe and Penny.

READ ALSO: How Germany’s EC card is set to go digital

How many places are affected in total?

Verifone’s H5000 reader is one of the three most popular and widely used models in German retail. But there are no concrete figures on how many places are affected. It is estimated that thousands of shops are affected by the outage.

Will the problem be solved quickly?

It’s already been dragging on since last Tuesday, making paying for goods in Germany more difficult. And it looks like it could be some days yet until the problem is fixed entirely across Germany. 

Banner ad

At the weekend, Frankfort-based service provider Payone, which uses Verifone, said it had prepared for the update.

“Nevertheless, we assume that this process cannot be carried out ad hoc in the area, but will probably take a few days,” a Payone spokeswoman said.

Verifone emphasised that the problem “is not related to the expiry of a certificate or a security breach, and does not represent a security threat”. They said it was a software fault.

What do I need to know now before shopping?

Customers are being urged to take cash with them when shopping because ATMs are not affected by the outage.

As a general rule, however, ATMs in Germany are busier due to the malfunctioning card readers. They are likely to get even busier in the next few days because employers tend to pay out wages around the end of the month. 

How hard is it to pay with card in Germany?

The technical glitch adds another facet to Germany’s reputation as being a country where it is difficult to pay with card at the best of times.

Unlike many other western countries, Germans still hold a lot of fondness for cash, and many business only accept cash payments.

However, cashless payments have received a boost in Germany due to the pandemic. The share of sales accounted for by card payments in retail rose from 50.5 percent in 2019 to 58.8 percent last year, a study by the Cologne-based retail research institute EHI found.

Contactless payments, where cards or smartphones are held in front of the terminal, have also become much more common due to the pandemic.

The outage does, however, raise questions about how often businesses in Germany update their card readers, and it will be something they will have to consider more in future. 

Related posts

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée.