Tens of thousands of Christmas shoppers were left unable to pay for goods electronically this week following a fire at a BT exchange in London.
A water leak at the telco’s Gerrard Street exchange in the capital’s Chinatown district resulted in an electrical short circuit, causing certain equipment to catch fire.
The blaze specifically affected the running of card-reading services in the immediate area, which includes the busy shopping districts of Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Soho. A number of retailers in these areas were unable to accept debit or credit card payments.
"BT can confirm that water damage from a mains drain has disrupted power supplies to an exchange in the West End of London," BT said in a statement following the incident. "A number of customers in central London have been experiencing a loss of service."
A spokesperson for BT told Information Age following the incident that "tens of thousands" were affected. The issue began at approximately 02:00 on Tuesday and was fully resolved by 17:00, the spokesperson said.
This is not the first time in 2010 that BT services have been compromised in such a manner. In March, a combination of fire and flooding at the company’s Paddington exchange affected telephone and Internet connectivity for customers across the UK.