ATM crash bank backs off charging overdrawn customers
Published 09/12/2010 | 05:00
BANK of Ireland has rowed back on threats to impose interest and charges on customers who ended up overdrawn after its payments systems collapsed.
The bank insisted last night that its ATM and Laser card systems were working properly again after massive technical problems on Tuesday.
But customers who withdrew more cash than was in their accounts during the ATM failure will not have to pay extra fees.
The systems crash caused disruption to Bank of Ireland online and phone banking services, with long queues forming at automated teller machines (ATMs) when false rumours spread that pass machines were spewing out money. There were claims they were paying out double the amount requested.
A spokesman for the bank admitted there were long queues and huge demand for cash, particularly in Dublin and Limerick.
The systems breakdown meant that the electronic link between the bank's 1,000 ATM machines and its central computer server was lost.
This meant that ATMs recorded withdrawals, but the system was unable to link this information into the customer's account and confirm whether there was sufficient funds in place.
The bank had initially said on Tuesday that customers who found themselves overdrawn would be liable for charges and interest.
This was interpreted as meaning that overdraft charges of 14.8pc would apply. In addition, there is a surcharge of 7.2pc for having an "unauthorised" overdraft.
But the bank said last night that it would not now be imposing any charges.
It said in a statement: "For customers who became inadvertently overdrawn Bank of Ireland will on this occasion refund any over-limit fees applied in respect of transactions conducted during the affected period, and will also allow an interest-free period for the amount involved."
It would not say how long the interest-free period would be, and it denied it was forced to perform a U-turn by the Central Bank.
The bank refused to reveal how much money had been withdrawn on Tuesday.
And it denied reports that some ATMs were paying out money when no personal identification number was entered.
It said normal processing of items such as direct debits, standing orders and international payments were unaffected by the breakdown.
And it apologised to customers who may have had a transaction declined or who received less cash than they required.
The system breakdown affected 1.2 million Bank of Ireland customers. The system was offline between 9.20am and 10.30pm on Tuesday night.
This meant people with money in their accounts could not withdraw as much as they wanted, but those low on funds were able to access more than their limit. A bank spokeswoman said this resulted in "minor exploitation" with customers withdrawing funds in excess of their account limits.