The DSGV, the umbrella group that oversees the Sparkasse finance group’s some 500 banks, apologised to customers for the problem, which has affected some 30 million bank cards across the country.
“Sparkasse and Landesbank will pay back card holders the fees that arise from having to find other payment methods,” DSGV president Heinrich Haasis told the paper. “Even when an external program firm is responsible for the mistake, customers of Sparkasse and Landesbank can expect to be provided service without mistakes.”
The problem began at the New Year and stems from computer chips in the “EC” or “girocards,” in addition to millions of credit cards, which were not programmed to handle the transition into the new decade. Millions of Germans have been left without a means of withdrawing cash or make card payments in stores.
While banks have been working overtime to fix their software, some customers are still having trouble making payments.
The situation has since improved at cash distributors, with bank staff working overtime to reprogram their software, but payments in shops and supermarkets are still subject to glitches.
The world’s biggest chip card maker, the French group Gemalto, is the cause of the problem, German media reported on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the private bank association BDB said some 2.5 million of its cards had been hit, and the BVR association added that four million cards issued by Germany’s cooperative banks had also been partially touched by the problem.
Around 93 million EC cards currently circulate in Germany, where cash is also a widely used form of payment.