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Users flocking to sign up to the newly-introduced loyalty card scheme Nectar have flooded the site, forcing its backers to temporarily suspend Web-based signups.

As with the protracted delays in getting the 1901 Census Web site up and running, the backers of Nectar.com (Sainsbury's, Barclaycard, Debenhams and BP) have chronically underestimated demand.

The Nectar Web site has been receiving over 10,000 unique visitors an hour since Monday morning, according to Loyalty Management UK, which is running the programme.

That of course is not the main problem - The Reg get more visitors at peak times, for instance - no, the difficulty is that signing Nectar.com is a transaction heavy process that it maxing out the site's existing servers.

A notice on the site explains: "We are well on the way to becoming the biggest rewards programme in the UK and are currently experiencing very high volumes of traffic on the Nectar website. As a result you may experience difficulty in accessing our site. If you wish to register for the Nectar programme, please complete your registration form and post it to us in the envelope provided."

A spokeswoman for Loyalty Management UK said that Nectar is putting in additional servers to cope with extra demand, and expressed the hope that the site will be available later today.

She didn't known the platform on which Nectar.com runs but Netcraft reports that the site uses a Netscape-Enterprise/4.1 on Solaris 8 front end.

By signing for Nectar on-line, card holders get a bonus 100 points (worth 50p), and avoid the hassle of either ringing an 0870 number to register or using snailmail. This incentive, together with higher than expected early demand for the programme, sent Nectar titsup.com.

Perhaps the lack of Web access is a blessing in disguise. A Reg reader told us he was able to see another user's details when he managed, after a long struggle, to register on the site late last night.

Nectar is aware of the problem but describes it as an isolated incident, adding that it putting measures in place to prevent a repetition of the security breach.

Over six million registration packs are already with consumers and by the end of the week, Loyalty Management UK estimates over 10 million cards will be in circulation - enough to enrol more than 40 per cent of UK households.

Nectar has proved popular because it allows consumers to accumulate points at the four participating outlets and redeem credits against a wide variety of goods not just at those outlets but for other affiliates (such as Virgin, British Midland and Eurostar) as well. ®

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