Shell Oil Double-Charge Saga Plot Thickens

One day after saying that some $12 million in duplicate charges were from an outage caused by AT&T on January 29, Shell Oil is withdrawing its statement. Shell is now saying that its outage was an internal systems issue and that Shell alone was responsible for the duplicate charges. Indeed, AT&T is now saying that it never suffered an outage at all.

The information that an AT&T outage not only existed but was the cause of Shell's system failure was "poor information, poor communication from our teams internally," Shell spokesperson Theodore Rolfvondenbaumen said on Friday (Feb. 4). Following the preliminary results of a Shell IT investigation, Rolfvondenbaumen said, "we are very much aware that [it] is our issue."

AT&T late on Friday (Feb. 4) made it explicit that an AT&T outage didn't happen. "There was no outage with AT&T's network" and certainly nothing "impacting Shell from AT&T's network," said AT&T spokesperson Niall Hickey.

Rolfvondenbaumen didn't provide an updated timetable for the Shell card-swipe problem that ended with the double-charging of more than 400,000 transactions. That's important, because new information surfaced late Thursday (Feb. 3) questioning that timetable. On Tuesday (Feb. 1), Shell—along with a memo from its processor, First Data—said the charges that were double-billed all happened on January 29.

But reader comments, and other information, suggest that double-charges from Shell stations had started on January 28. "In terms of the timeframe, we were made aware of the situation on the 29th," Rolfvondenbaumen said, "and we will fully investigate any incidents before and take into account the possibility that it might have happened earlier."

Shell said that its IT investigation is continuing and updates should be forthcoming.