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Latest Post Office Horizon problems fixed with software update to blame

The Post Office has fixed the latest problems with its Horizon system, affecting hundreds of branches

The Post Office has fixed the software problems experienced in hundreds of Post Office branches after an upgrade that didn’t go to plan.

The problem, reported by Computer Weekly on 12 August, caused hundreds of Horizon terminals used by thousands of Post Office branches across the country to freeze, hang or run very slowly. 

The Horizon system is the subject of a continuing High Court case examining the system’s alleged role in subpostmasters being wrongly prosecuted and fined for accounting shortfalls.

This is part of a multimillion-pound group litigation order brought by 550 subpostmasters, which has already seen two trials, with two more planned over the next year. At the heart of the case is the question of whether Horizon is sufficiently robust. 

A Post Office spokesperson said: “The intermittent slow-running of the Horizon system which affected some branches has now been fixed. We have apologised to our postmasters for the inconvenience this caused.”

The plight of some subpostmasters was first reported in 2009, when Computer Weekly revealed that the lives of some had been turned upside-down after they were fined, sacked, made bankrupt or even imprisoned because of unexplained accounting shortfalls. They blamed the Horizon accounting and retail system for the problems, but the Post Office has refuted this (see timeline below for full story).

Mark Baker, postmaster branch secretary at the Communication Workers Union, told Computer Weekly that subpostmasters were informed that the latest problem had been fixed on 14 August.

“The Post Office said it was a software upgrade, but we do not know what caused it. We don’t even know what was being upgraded,” said Baker, adding that since the fix on Wednesday, the union has not been informed of any further problems.

The controversial Horizon retail and accounting system, which was built by Fujitsu, is used by 11,500 subpostmasters.

Computer Weekly reported in July that a subpostmaster had identified a problem where cash being accepted by the branch from the Post Office cash centre was not being properly recorded in the Horizon retail and accounting system used by subpostmasters.

The Post Office investigated the matter and said in a communication with its branch network: “We have traced the issue, which was occurring due to a technical timeout between systems as the pouch data transferred from our cash supply chain system into Horizon. We believe it is now fully resolved, but will continue to monitor.”

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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