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PayPal crawls after messaging glitches

Some punters pay double, PayPal promises to 'make you whole' in recompense

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PayPal has been hit by glitches that have in some cases confused users of the service so much they paid for the same item twice.

The most severe issue has hit the service's instant payment notifications (IPNs), the messaging system that sellers rely on to learn of transactions conducted using the payment service. IPNs have been delayed or even stopped, leaving buyers and sellers alike unsure if transactions have been successful. Some buyers have assumed the worst and conducted the transaction a second time, only to learn – once PayPal's IPNs landed – that they have paid twice.

PayPal is aware of the problem and has promised, in a statement sent to El Reg, that “All customers will be refunded for duplicate transactions as soon as possible.” The statement also went on to say “We will work with every customer affected to make them whole,” which seems a rather new age way of dealing with a payment system problem, and a statement the psychologically wounded among PayPal's customer base will do well to interpret carefully.

PayPal 'fessed up to the problem just after 7:00 AM on January 28th (GMT), when users started to notice slow transaction processing and IPNs arriving in a less-than-timely fashion. The issue ran for around fifteen hours, with incident update published at around 9:00PM (GMT) stating “We have implemented a fix and IPNs for transactions processed after Jan 28, 10:47 AM PST (Jan 28, 6:47 PM GMT) are being sent now."

"We are expecting IPNs for new transactions to start being delivered in near real-time within the next hour," the company added, promising catch-up on older IPNs within 24 hours.

An update from around 11:00PM GMT has since assured customers “IPNs for new transactions are currently being delivered in near real-time” and that a backlog of unprocessed IPNs will be cleared “within the next 24 hours”.

A second problem hurting performance of the DoExpressCheckout, DoReferenceTransaction and DoDirectPayment APIs, which the company says are producing a “higher than usual error rate” and ran for nearly three hours before it was repaired. Another brief issue hurt the Payflow Link and Payflow Pro on the Payflow Gateway, but was resolved in under an hour.

PayPal has not explained the cause of the outage and declined to respond to The Reg's query regarding how many transactions and/or punters were caught in the glitches, saying only that “A small proportion of PayPal's global customers making payments during the 3-hour period were affected.”

The “3-hour period” mentioned in the PayPal statement sent to The Reg does not correspond to the gap in time between the notification of the fault and restoration recorded on the company's status update page for the incident. We've therefore asked PayPal for clarification, but have been told PayPal Australia's spokesdroids are overseas and may take some time to reply. When they do, we shall update this story. ®

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