The UK’s entire post office network was taken out by a computer problem today, affecting services for several hours nationwide.
There were concerns among consumer groups that the problems were the fourth major difficulties experienced in the Post Office IT network over the past nine months.
The latest disruption began early this morning, but was resolved by the late afternoon according to Post Office Ltd.
During the day retail staff were unable to provide any customer services requiring access to a computer, including the posting of parcels.
Some of the only services available were the sale of stamps to customers paying in cash, with some post offices deciding to close early for the day, leaving customers with access to no services at all.
Separate terminals including ATMs and services like Post & Go, Paystation bill payment and E top-up transactions were unaffected by the problems, according to the Post Office.
In a statement sent to Post&Parcel today, A Post Office spokesman said: “We apologise to all our customers for the service problems experienced in our branches and the inconvenience this may have caused. Services have now been fully restored and customers are able to complete all transactions across the Post Office network.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation closely to make sure our services remain available as normal,” added the Post Office spokesperson.
The UK’s Post Office Ltd has around 11,500 branches in its network, turning over around GBP 776m each year, or just over GBP 2m on an average day.
British consumer watchdog Consumer Focus said this evening that the disruption had resulted in several hours of inconvenience for post office customers, but came as part of a worrying trend in the quality of the Post Office IT network.
Among its recent problems, the post office network was paralysed for multiple periods during its busiest day of the year last December.
Andy Burrows, head of post office services at Consumer Focus, said: “We are concerned that this is the fourth major service interruption in the Post Office’s electronic systems in nine months.
“We will be meeting with Post Office Ltd to understand how the problem will be addressed,” added Burrows. “Customers need post office services, including the collection of benefits and pensions, to be reliable and resilient.”
Royal Mail also had IT problems with its website last December, in which 600 customers were double-charged for purchases made, adding up to GBP 30,000 in incorrect payments.
Source: Post&Parcel/Post Office Ltd/Consumer Focus