NatWest is in the throes of a desperate crisis management exercise after thousands of customers took to social media and reported having their debit and credit cards declined in shops across the country on one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.
Amid widespread confusion over the cause of the technological outage, the bank insisted it would “put problems right” and told disgruntled customers to contact them on Tuesday morning where staff would be “ready to help”. “If customers have been left out of pocket as a result of these problems, we will put this right,” it insisted in a Tweet.
Speculation on what caused the glitch ranged from suggestions of a cyber-attack to another failed software update, which caused chaos for millions of customers for days last year. The systems meltdown in 2012 left the bank unable to update customer balances while other customers faced difficulties in paying bills and moving home.
Natwest apologised to customers with a score of messages on Twitter, insisting that it would rectify the problem by Tuesday, and deal with those that had been left “out of pocket”. But that was met angrily by customers.
Rebecca Yates responded: “What time do the phone lines open? I should of had a special birthday night but was ruined so thank you natwest #happybirthday”
Another Twitter user wrote: “Too late, ive been with you since 1999 but will be GONE by the weekend”
NatWest's press office were unable to assist, referring queries to the bank's Twitter account. A statement from the press office said: “We are aware of the technical issues being experienced by customers and are working to get them fixed urgently. We apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused.”
There were suggestions that some transactions had been rectified, but with Natwest's state-owned sister bank Royal Bank of Scotland also been affected, the crisis is unlikely to help two banks that are fighting to repair their image in wake of the financial crisis and last year's problems.
The 2012 outage saw Natwest attract severe criticism but the bank was able to win back consumers back and was even named the“most trusted bank” at Moneywise magazine's annual Customer Service Awards beating five other rivals.
However that looked increasingly more difficult as social media flooded with complaints. Ibrahim Mehtar wrote: “time to ditch @NatWest_Help and move on to a bank that you can rely on. Totally shambolic.”
Conall Gribben wrote: “Card declined, online banking down, 12 mins to an 0845 number with no answer. I'll be saying bye to @NatWest_Help v soon.”