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Millions of German bank cards hit by Y2K timebomb

06 January 2010  |  16841 views  |  2 a clock

Millions of German bank cardholders have been hit by a Y2K-hangover bug which prevents card chips supplied by French technology company Gemalto from recognising the year 2010 change.

The glitch has left many consumers unable to use their cards in cash machines and eftpos terminals around the country and also hit German cadholders travelling overseas.

Smart card supplier Gemalto issued a statement late Tuesday saying that it is actively working with German banks to develop "a corrective process that avoids the replacement of the affected cards in Germany".

Other large suppliers to the German banks, Giesecke & Devriant, Oberthur and Sagem Orga, say that their cards continue to function normally.

In a statement, the DSGV savings and regional banking association says that around 20 million "electronic cash" (EC) cards, and 3.5 million classic credit cards issued by its members have been affected by the bug, which it describes as a delayed "Year 2000 problem".

A further 6.5 million cards issued by private and co-operative banks have also been hit.

DSGV says it expects to resolve all the problem by early next week, but warns that consumers may experience "withdrawal restrictions" on some credit cards until then.

ZKA (Zentraler Kreditausschuss - the German Central Credit Committee) says acceptance of cards in cash machines and eftpos terminals is gathering pace in Germany, but that travellers may continue to experience problems.

Olivier Piou, Gemalto CEO, comments: "We are fully focused on minimising the inconvenience for the cardholders. As a partner, we will of course meet our contractual obligations, and continue to support our clients. We trust that we will promptly deploy a solution with our German customers to return to full normal operation."

He adds that Gemalto cards issued in other countries have not been affected.

Similar Y2K time bombs have exploded in Australia, where merchant terminals supplied by KeyCorp skipped six years ahead and refused to recognise cards issued by Bank of Queensland. The affliction, which also spread to some BankWest customers, was fixed following an overnight software patch that was downloaded to affected terminals on Tuesday.

Comments: (2)

Nigel Beatty
Nigel Beatty - Proxama Digital Payments Division - London | 06 January, 2010, 11:07

Since EMV cards do not perform any processing on the date, this bug must be in the terminals and ATMs. Just goes to show that testing of chip card systems has to be thorough. Here at Aconite (aconite.net) we estimate that testing an EMV implementation will generate between 4 and 8 times the number of test conditions in comparison to a magnetic-stripe deployment.

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Michael Kolatchev
Michael Kolatchev - www.rossnova.com - Brussels | 06 January, 2010, 18:00

There was possibly comparable issue with ING e-banking in BE first day of January or so. Don't remember by heart, but something like "date is not entered correctly"... while I was not entering anything at all, just looking through pages.

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