Card network Visa has confirmed that it is suffering a "service disruption" in Europe, leaving shoppers unable to use their cards at the point-of-sale.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, the card scheme says: "Visa is currently experiencing a service disruption. This incident is preventing some Visa transactions in Europe from being processed. We are investigating the cause and working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation."
Earlier, British payments outfit Paymentsense tweeted a statement saying that the disruption is affecting all payment providers across the UK and Ireland, adding that Visa has advised it of "an issue occurring with their authorisation service which is causing declines and time-outs for some merchants".
On its Twitter account, Lloyds Bank has clarified that ATM and Mastercard transactions are not affected. Meanwhile, supermarket Tesco says that that contactless payments have been hit but not chip and PIN transactions.
The Bank of England, which oversees Visa, says it is "aware of the issue currently affecting Visa and working with the firm to resolve the situation".
By 6pm BST, HSBC and others were reporting that services were "slowly recovering" but were warning that customers could still be hit by intermittent issues.
Visa says the breakdown in service was the result of a hardware failure within one of our European systems and is not associated with any unauthorized access or cyberattack.
“Our goal is to ensure all Visa payments work reliably 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We fell well short of this goal today and we apologize to all of our partners and Visa account holders for any inconvenience this may have caused,” says Al Kelly, Visa’s chief executive officer.