Bank customers hit by the computer meltdown at NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland could receive compensation for their ‘distress and inconvenience’, an industry watchdog said today.
Property deals, holidays and birthday parties have been delayed or cancelled because people have been unable to withdraw money following the freezing of hundreds of thousands of accounts on Tuesday night.
While the banks were expected to resolve most problems, there were bound to be arguments about who was to blame for situations, such as a house sale falling through, said a spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
Customers should complain in the first instance to the banks but if they failed to respond fairly, FOS could award compensation for ‘consequential losses’ for the original fault and payment for ‘distress and inconvenience,’ a spokesman said.
As the problem entered its fifth day, 1,200 branches of NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank opened for the first time on a Sunday.
RBS Group said the underlying fault had been solved, but told its customers: "We are still experiencing technical issues with our service which means account balances may not be displaying correctly.”
In an attempt to sort out the mess, its main banks will stay open until 7pm tonight.
Stephen Hester, chief executive of NatWest owner RBS, also apologised personally to customers on Saturday night. Mr Hester, who waived a £1million bonus this year, said: “I want to reassure customers that no one will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this, and again, they should contact us directly about this.”
Around 500 customers called the Financial Ombudsman Service on Saturday asking for help in the immediate aftermath of the problem. Others vented their fury on Twitter, including one who wrote: "I just feel so sorry for the staff in the call centres. I spoke to a lady this morning who was clearly close to tears.
"It's difficult to remember, but it's not their fault. I did try not to shout at her but it was very hard, particularly after 35 minutes on hold with the silly announcement saying 'check the website' every few seconds. The frustration is now getting to everyone. How a situation like this can arise is unbelievable. I've had to explain why my rent is late, and they were not at all sympathetic!"
RBS Group has declined to say how many of its 16.9 million customers - 11.5 million at NatWest, 3.5 million at RBS and 1.9m at Ulster Bank – have been affected by the glitch, though Ulster Bank said its total was 100,000.