Interac system outage creates some issues for Prince Albert businesses

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Interac machines were down for much of the day on Friday.

Having the Interac machine go down wasn’t a major inconvenience for Nisan Parekh, but it was a good reminder to always keep cash on hand.

Parekh is the night shift manager at Shananigan’s Bistro Coffee and Dessert Bar in Prince Albert, and like many service and retail workers in Prince Albert, he had his hands full when Rogers had their major outage on Friday.

“People were having trouble and some of them they didn’t know that the Interac was down,” Parekh explained. “It didn’t have a huge effect on the business, but some of the people got in trouble because the Interac was down, and we suggested for cash or credit for those who were not able to pay with Interac.”

Although Shananigan’s did steady business during the outage, Parekh said it shows one people should always have multiple payment options available.

“It has to be a substitute, just like the Interac,” he explained. “If you are totally relying on Interac and suppose it’s not working, you should have MasterCard or Visa or something like. That’s the thing that remind us that we always have to have two or more options.”

Parekh said they did have a sign in place saying that they were only accepting cash or some credit cards. By the time he arrived for the night shift, most people knew about the outage, but not everyone.

“By the evening, people knew that Interac is not working,” he said. “Still there were a few people who didn’t realize that the Interac is down so they had some trouble but eventually they paid credit or cash.”

There were occasional people having issues during his shift, but Parekh said most people were happy to pay cash or credit.

The outage was mostly corrected by Saturday, but there were still glitches going on into that day. Along with Interac service crashing, large sections of the country were without Internet too as Rogers is a large provider. The company is currently in negotiations to take over Shaw, one of the Internet providers in Prince Albert.

On Monday afternoon, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne took to Twitter to criticize Rogers for their lack of reliability.

“The national outage of telecom services that millions of Canadians experienced in the last few days is unacceptable. Full stop,” Champagne wrote. “It affected people across the country, emergency services, small and medium size businesses and payment systems.”

On Monday, the minister brought together the heads of the major telecom companies to demand they take immediate action to improve the resiliency and reliability of our networks. A formal arrangement must be in place within 60 days.

He directed the companies to reach agreements on emergency roaming, mutual assistance during outages. They also have to create a communication protocol to better inform the public and authorities during telecommunications emergencies.

The outage will be investigated by the CRTC as well, according to Champagne.

He wrote that this was just the first step

“Canadians deserve more from their providers in terms of quality and reliability of service and I will ensure they meet the high standard that Canadians expect, including improving competition, innovation and affordability,” Champagne wrote.

On Saturday, Rogers president and CEO Tony Staffieri released statement apologizing to customers who rely on the company’s network.

The company has narrowed the problem down to a network system failure in the core network following a maintenance update. Staffieri said the failure caused some of their outers to malfunction early Friday morning.

Rogers has promised to “proactively credit all customers automatically” for Friday’s outage. The credit will be applied automatically.

“Our leading technical experts and global vendors are continuing to dig deep into the root cause and identify steps to increase redundancy in our networks and systems,” Staffieri’s statement reads. “We will take every step necessary, and continue to make significant investments in our networks to strengthen our technology systems, increase network stability for our customers, and enhance our testing.

“We let you down yesterday. You have my personal commitment that we can, and will, do better.”