Software Failures of 2015: Quarter Three

As we head into the end of 2015, it is time to look back and see which software failures made the headlines in the 3rd Quarter. (Missed last quarter? You can find it here!) With the vacation season winding down we started to see fewer transportation issues, and an uptick in retail-related software bugs. One of the biggest stories of the quarter starts us off: a software glitch that may well be the most dramatic financial meltdown of 2015 so far. 

Software Bug Cripples Pricing of US Mutual Funds

The biggest financial malfunction of Q3 took place at the Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM), turning the U.S. mutual fund industry on its head for nearly two weeks this past August. BNYM’s software bug, which corrupted the pricing system of the mutual fund giant, affected asset management firms, investment companies, and banks across the United States; sparking hundreds of emergency meetings to sort pricing data and create contingency plans for mispriced sales. Industry analysts called the software glitch the “biggest software stock price issue in more than 10 years” – and that was even before the problem proceeded to drag on for over a week and a half. BNYM soon narrowed the problem down to their SunGard Data System, but the progress stopped there. Over a week after the initial meltdown, all that BNYM and SunGard could report was that they were “close to fixing the software glitch”.

Multiple Stores across the United States Report Double-Charging Bug

Multiple accounts of grocery stores double-charging customers emerged in early September, with reports spanning from Food Lion in Virginia, to Jewel-Osco in Ohio, Hy-vee in Iowa, and Shaw’s and Hannaford in Vermont. Each story reported that customers paying with debit cards were double-charged for their purchases – sometimes for amounts as high as $600 over their original total. Each of the stores in question cited the same payment processor: NCR Connected Payments. NCR was quick to issue a statement advising shoppers to stick to cash and hold tight until they had sorted and refunded the payments. Days after the story had made multiple national headlines however, many shoppers were still waiting to see their money returned.

HSBC IT Bug Delays a Quarter Million Payments

HSBC announced in late August that an IT bug had resulted in the delay of 275,000 payments just ahead of a holiday weekend. The glitch affected more than just individual HSBC account holders – multiple companies found themselves unable to pay their employees as a result of their funds being inaccessible. HSBC stated that the payments, which were due to be transferred on a Friday, would be 99% processed by the following day. As a one-off incident, a day delay in payment is a troubling but forgivable lapse. Unfortunately however, HSBC is just one of the several major British banks that has experienced software meltdowns in recent years – a story that is becoming increasingly common in British newspapers.

Automakers Sued For Deadly Flaw in Keyless Ignition Systems

As of August, ten of the biggest names in the automotive industry are embroiled in a lawsuit over a potentially deadly defect in the keyless ignition systems of certain car models. The lawsuit claims that the companies in question intentionally buried a flaw in their keyless ignition system software, a flaw that allows the engine to remain running even once the key has been removed from the car. At least 13 deaths have been attributed to the resulting carbon monoxide build up. Popular cars cited in the lawsuit include BMW’s Mini, Daimler’s Mercedes Benz, Honda’s Acura, and Toyota’s Lexus – to name just a few. Aside from damages, the lawsuit is seeking to have the automakers revisit their keyless ignition system software to add an automatic shut-off feature.

Air Canada Refuses to Honor Glitch that Sold Flight Packages for 90% Off

Air Canada’s website pricing glitch was an unfortunate but relatively common error in the world of online shopping.  It was the events that transpired afterwards however, that catapulted the story into the spotlight this past August. When Air Canada mistakenly advertised a 10-pack of flight passes valued at $8000 for only $800, several shoppers were quick to jump on the deal. Air Canada quickly realized their error, fixed the pricing, and canceled the transactions. Problem solved, right? Wrong. The incensed would-be ticket holders have saddled Air Canada with a class action lawsuit, stating that the airline has a contractual obligation to honor the price of the tickets purchased. Whether this is actually the case is highly debatable, as the prosecution would likely have to prove “malicious intent” to win their case. Either way, Air Canada’s commonplace pricing glitch will do a lot more brand damage than anyone first expected.

Yahoo Japan System Glitch Loses 2.58 Million Emails

Yahoo Japan reported a software glitch this past August that resulted in the loss of 2.58 million emails from around 970,000 accounts. The system failure that resulted in the lost emails lasted for roughly 10 hours and cut off account access for 2.6 million users. At the time of the article publication, Yahoo Japan had not yet disclosed the source of the issue – only claiming that 60% of the emails were “spam” that would have been blocked by the recipient anyways. There was no word on whether the other 40% of emails would be recovered, leaving account holders to wonder what important, life changing news they may have missed.