MPs hit out at state-owned bank RBS last night after a computer cock-up led to some 600,000 payments disappearing. The IT meltdown hit customers of NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts as well as RBS and the bank was slammed after it admitted some customers would still be facing payment problems by Saturday.
“RBS is suggesting that the delayed payments will be processed ‘no later than Saturday’. This looks unacceptable,” said Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Committee. “Restoration of payments should be a top priority. It is crucial for those in the greatest financial need and also those who find it difficult to go to a branch.”
The payments to customers were delayed after the banking group was hit with another embarrassing computer meltdown yesterday.
The computer cock-up meant the payment had been delayed, the bank said, although that was of little comfort to hard-up customers hit when their essential tax credits or disability living allowance failed to arrive yesterday.
“This looks like a serious IT failure at RBS, the latest of many in the industry,” said Mr Tyrie. “Many thousands have once again been badly hit. Customers that have suffered loss should be reimbursed in full by RBS. It is also important that credit scores remain unaffected.”
The problems were fixed before yesterday lunchtime, the bank said, but admitted that some customers may see delays in receiving payments which could mean not seeing the cash in their accounts for some days.
But it was quick to reassure customers that it would recompense people who may have lost out because of the meltdown.
An RBS spokesman said: “We are aware of an issue which has resulted in a delay to payments and Direct Debits being applied to some customer accounts. We have fixed the underlying issue, we apologise for the inconvenience caused and we are working flat out to get these payments updated for our customers no later than Saturday.
“To any customers concerned about the implications of this issue we advise them to come into a branch or get in touch with our call centres where our staff will be ready to help. We will ensure no customers are left out of pocket as a result of this issue.”
It’s not the first time the state-owned bank has been guilty of IT problems. Nick Frankcom, money expert at uSwitch said: “The RBS group has a history of IT problems, and this latest issue will leave customers feeling short-changed yet again. Managing transactions is the main reason customers have a bank account in the first place.”
On Monday millions of Nationwide customers were unable to access their accounts online after internet banking and mobile banking as well as mobile payments were out of order. Problems had been caused by a planned upgrade on Sunday but were resolved within a couple of hours.
Q&A - How can I get my money?
Click on the video above to get some advice.
What went wrong?
The bank was hit with technical problems involving its “overnight process”, the group said, which left customers complaining yesterday morning of “missing” payments.
Is this the first time it’s happened?
No. The banking group was fined £56m by the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority last year for a major computer failure that left up to 6.5 million customers unable to use their account for up to three weeks in 2012. Then in 2013, RBS's online service was disrupted by a denial-of-service attack.
Will the bank be fined again?
Possibly. Andrew Tyrie of the Treasury Committee, said an apology and recompense from the bank isn’t enough this time and that it needs to ensure that the computer glitches stop happening. “These failures should concern both the conduct and prudential regulators,” he said. “I will be writing to the chief executive of RBS, the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, and the chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority to obtain reassurance that the steps necessary to bring a halt to these failures are being taken.”
What should I do if I was affected?
Check your accounts to ensure that any delayed payments haven’t hit essential direct debits such as rent, mortgage or utility bills. Inform any companies or people expecting cash from you that it is delayed because of the RBS mess; that should help ensure you don’t get penalised for the bank’s errors.
What about if I need cash now?
The bank said that anyone affected who needed cash should phone 03457 242424 from mobiles, 0800 121129 from landlines or visit a local branch.
The Twitterstorm – “I had to leave my disabled husband and run home”
Many concerned RBS and NatWest customers from across the country turned to Twitter to complain yesterday. Joanna Lawson of Preston said: “My monthly Asda delivery has been cancelled due to no funds in account, I was relying on it.”
Diane Weavin branded the problems “a joke” after reporting: “At the petrol station had to leave my disabled husband there to run home to get the cash. Not impressed!”
Meanwhile Kirsty tweeted: “Mine’s missing, hurry up got bills to pay and overdraft from you, can't pay till you get my money back.”
Dr Sharon Connor said: “DWP payment due today has not been received.” By lunchtime RBS tweeted: “We have fixed the underlying issue, and are working flat out to get these payments updated.”
But Cristie Smedley from Cardiff wrote: “This is unacceptable once again for the 3rd time in a year! If it was us making late payments we would all be charged.”
Tony Sharpe from Bournemouth hit out at the continued delays. “Payments to arrive by Saturday?!?! There are people who won't be able to eat, pay for electric etc... Pay today. Disgraceful?”
When the RBS social media team responded with a standard response he added: “You don't understand my frustration as you have food to eat tonight. I can make instant transfer, why on earth can't RBS?”
L J Ellwood from Wales said the bank should have warned customers about the problems. She wrote: “It is utterly disgraceful that you have not made ANY effort to contact customers & we are finding out via media!”
Others decided enough was enough and threatened to switch banks. Gemma-Marie Lanigan of Southport said she had problems with online bank thinkmoney too and after not getting a satisfactory response said: “Off to Lloyds to open an account. @thinkmoney and @RBS_Help are the worst banks ever!”
Letter from the Personal Finance Editor – RBS deserves no sympathy after yet another blunder
How many times can you tolerate your bank messing up access to your cash? For millions of NatWest and RBS customers, not to mention those of Coutts and Ulster Bank, yesterday could have been one computer cock-up too far.
When the group left millions with no access to their bank account for weeks back in 2012, you might have assumed it had learned a big lesson. The subsequent £56m fine by the financial authorities certainly cost it a pretty penny.
When there were problems in 2013, customers’ patience would have worn a little bit thinner. But now it seems that what the bank blames on “the complexity of the Group’s IT infrastructure” and “overlapping multiple legacy systems” may be an insurmountable problem, at least in the short-term.
Frankly you should have no sympathy with the bank’s continuing problems. The fact that it is quick to apologise and promises that no customers will be left out of pocket is not good enough.
What you need from your bank is continuity of service. You need to know that payments will be made and received on time, so your finances don’t spiral out of your control.
RBS has consistently demonstrated that it can’t provide that. It’s time to find a bank that can.