Visa’s Europe boss risks public hearing over card payments failure

Visa has apologised after a system failure prevented card payments across the UK and Europe (PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Visa’s European chief executive Charlotte Hogg faces the prospect of being hauled in front of MPs over a systems failure that caused card payment “chaos” last week.

MP and head of the influential Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan has written to Ms Hogg about the debacle on June 1, which left a number of UK and European cardholders unable to complete transactions.

Ms Hogg is a former Bank of England rate setter, whose brief stint as deputy governor ended last year when she was forced to resign from the role.

Ms Morgan said the incident at Visa led to “widespread inconvenience” for both consumers and businesses, and is calling on Visa to give details on when the company and its chief were first aware of the failure.

She has also asked Visa to specify how many cards were ultimately affected and if any customers saw money leave their accounts despite transactions not being completed.

The MP is calling for details over the nature of the hardware failure, what controls have been put in place to prevent similar incidents, and why processing was not switched to a backup site.

Ms Hogg has been given until the end of June 15 to respond to the queries, but still risks being hauled in front of the Treasury Select Committee to answer further questions.

Ms Morgan said: “A third of all spending in the UK is processed by Visa. It’s deeply worrying, therefore, that such a vital part of the country’s payment infrastructure can fail so catastrophically.

“The consequences were sudden and severe. Many consumers and businesses were left stranded on Friday, unable to make or accept payments, with chaos reported in shops.

“The Committee has asked Ms Hogg to answer its questions on the disruption. If it is not satisfied with the response, the Committee may consider asking Ms Hogg to provide oral evidence.”

Visa apologised for the system failure which affected customers across the UK and Europe, saying it “fell well short” of its goal to ensure cards work reliably at all times.

The payment system was said to be operating at “close to normal levels” by 10.30pm on Friday, but Visa Europe posted a statement on its website in the early hours of Saturday to say the problems had been resolved.

The issue was not associated with any unauthorised access or cyber attack, the statement added.

It is understood the Bank of England was in touch with Visa about the problem.

The embarrassment comes just over a year since Ms Hogg was forced to resign from her post as deputy governor at the Bank of England.

She had come under fire for breaking the Bank’s code of conduct by failing to declare that her brother worked for Barclays.

Her resignation last March came shortly after the Treasury Select Committee published a report stating that her professional competence had fallen short of the standards required to fulfil her role as the Bank’s deputy governor for markets and banking.

The fiasco prompted the Bank to overhaul its internal structures and launch a review to ensure its most senior levels abide by the code.