A Leap Year Glitch Broke Self-Pay Gas Station Pumps Across New Zealand

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Yesterday was Leap Day, meaning that for the first time in four years, it was February 29. That’s normally a quirky, astronomical factoid (or a very special birthday for some). But that unique calendar date broke gas station payment systems across New Zealand for much of the day.

As reported by numerous international outlets, self-serve pumps in New Zealand were unable to accept card payments due to a problem with the gas pumps’ payment processing software. The New Zealand Herald reported that the outage lasted “more than 10 hours.” This effectively shuttered some gas stations, while others had to rely on in-store payments. The outage affected suppliers including Allied Petroleum, BP, Gull, Waitomo, and Z Energy. It has now reportedly been fixed.

In-house payment solutions, such as BP fuel cards and the Waitomo app, reportedly still worked during the outage.

As noted by Bloomberg, New Zealand is one of the first countries to experience February 29 quadrennially because of its location. The gas pump breakdown sent stakeholders into a frenzy as they tried to resolve the problem caused by software being unequipped to process the bonus day.

John Scott, the CEO of Invenco Group, the provider of the self-payment terminals that malfunctioned, confirmed to Reuters that a “leap year glitch” caused the problem. Scott said the problem only affected New Zealand code. Invenco is investigating for more information about what caused the glitch.

Scott also told The New Zealand Herald that Invenco worked with Worldline as it rolled out the fix. France-headquartered Worldline makes software for processing card payments. Worldline claimed that all non-Invenco terminals using its technology continued to work during the outage, per the Otago Daily Times.

The outage highlights how extensive people’s reliance on technology has become and how an error based on something as trivial as a calendar date can upturn entire businesses and disrupt people’s day. While some gas stations were still able to accept other forms of payments, those that relied on the broken terminals found themselves missing out on business. RNZ reported speaking to someone who was declined service by four gas stations due to the outage.

An out-of-order fuel pump at a station in Wellington, New Zealand, on February 29, 2024.Photographer: Mark Coote/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As the companies involved work to issue apologies—and, in some cases, discounts—to make up for the inconvenience, there’s hope that the scale and embarrassment associated with the outage will help prevent similar events.

A representative for Allied Petroleum, when prompted via Facebook to “maybe remember Leap Day in four years’ time,” responded: “We’ll add it to our Outlook reminders 😕”.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.

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