Nova Scotia

How the Rogers outage is impacting businesses, services in Halifax

Businesses in Halifax are scrambling to let customers know they can't accept any debit transactions.

Outage began early Friday and is affecting many internet, phone and banking services

A man walks by a Rogers store in Toronto, Wednesday, August 15, 2013. Rogers Communications is experiencing a widespread outage that's affecting many services across the country, including Interac. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press)

Businesses in Halifax are scrambling to deal with a massive Rogers outage that's impacting debit services.

The outage began early Friday morning, and there are few details about why it's happening or when it will be resolved.

"It's been a bit of a stressful morning," said Jenna Oosterholt, who co-owns two coffee shops in downtown Halifax.

Customers are being advised they can only use cash or credit, and those who only have a debit card on hand are walking out without their morning coffee.

"Obviously [we're] losing sales there, but also making consumers frustrated because they don't necessarily understand that it's not our fault," she said.

Interac 'waiting for updates from Rogers'

Bryan Bossin, speaking for Interac, confirmed in an email to CBC News the outage is impacting Interac debit and e-transfer services across Canada. He could not give an estimated time of when services might be restored. 

"We are waiting for updates from Rogers on their time to resolution," he said. 

Late Friday, a Rogers spokesperson said in an email that wireless services were "starting to recover" and the company would proactively credit customers for the loss in service.

Earlier in the day, the company apologized to customers for the outage.

Jenna Oosterholt is a Halifax coffee shop owner. (Claire Fraser for CBC)

A woman trying to buy a coffee from one of Oosterholt's shops Friday morning called her husband for his credit card information and punched the 16-digit number into the machine manually.

"We don't want everybody doing that because it takes a lot of time, but she couldn't leave without a coffee," Oosterholt joked.

Some customers leaving empty-handed

Bliss Caffeine Bar uses a Clover point-of-sale system. Oosterholt said typically when there's an issue, the company reaches out with a quick fix. Given how widespread the outage is, she's not sure when or how the problem will be resolved.

"It's been frustrating for sure for the whole team, and definitely frustrating as a business owner to see sales walk out the door," she said.

At the Best Western Plus hotel in Chocolate Lake, the outage is causing a headache for staff and guests as well.

"They would have started their transaction yesterday. And trying to finish it today, if they paid any type of a deposit, we were unable to return it to them over debit. So having debit down at the front desk is a significant inconvenience," said general manager Celeste Baxter.

When the hotel is unable to return a deposit over debit, they can do it by cheque instead, which does not happen on site and can take 10 to 14 days. E-transfers have been done in the past, but Baxter said it's not preferred as it can get "messy."

"I completely understand that some people aren't in a position to have $200 or $300 held up on their bank account for prolonged periods of time," she said, adding most guests have been understanding of the issues with the system.

Baxter said the outage is also impacting their head office, online servers, and some phone services.

N.S. vaccine booking platform also impacted

The province's online vaccine booking platform, which opened Friday to people aged 50+ for a fourth dose, is also being affected by the outage. Some people are being prevented from booking an appointment.

Debit services are also impacted at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport for parking and many concession services, but a spokesperson for the airport told CBC News flights are so far not affected.

Halifax Regional Police confirmed its emergency services dispatch centre is not impacted by the outage, and Rogers customers can still call 911.

Nova Scotia Health mobile devices are also not affected, but the health authority is reaching out to employees and physicians who use Rogers to have them provide an alternative phone number or contact information should they be needed urgently.

But the outage means there are some health-care sites in the province in which the fire panel does not ring to the alarm company in case of emergency. A spokesperson for NSH said efforts are underway to mitigate those issues.

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