independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ulster Bank forced to pay out-of-pocket customers for latest systems blunder

A customer uses a cash machine at a branch of the Ulster Bank in Coleraine, Northern Ireland...A customer uses a cash machine at a branch of the Ulster Bank in Coleraine, Northern Ireland July 2, 2013.   REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton  (NORTHERN IRELAND - Tags: BUSINESS)...I
A customer uses a cash machine at a branch of the Ulster Bank

BLUNDERING Ulster Bank was forced to offer to pay expenses to thousands of customers who were denied access to their wages and pensions after its payments systems were crippled for the second time in a fortnight.

The bank said a problem arose that resulted in some payments for thousands of customers being delayed.

The bank did not say how many customers were affected, but stressed that anyone who was out of pocket due to the breakdown could claim for the loss.

It was the fourth time in 18 months that the bank has been crippled by a payments system failure.

The collapse happened on Wednesday, and comes soon after the boss of Ulster Bank's parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), admitted that the group had failed to invest enough money in keeping its systems up to date.

A spokeswoman for the bank said: "Some files were delayed through our payment system overnight on Wednesday and these payments have now been made.

"We apologise for this delay and if any customers have been left out of pocket, we will put this right."

Last week, hundreds of thousands of Ulster Bank customers were unable to access their accounts or carry out transactions for several hours.

Just over a year ago, an IT breakdown resulted in Ulster Bank customers being locked out of their accounts for up to a month.

PROBLEM

It is understood this latest problem had only affected Republic of Ireland accounts and euro payments.

Chief executive of the Consumers' Association Dermott Jewell said this was the third systems failure this year. In March, the bank also suffered a payments system breakdown.

"Unquestionably, this leaves consumers out of pocket and they must be compensated sufficiently."

At the start of the month the head of RBS admitted the technology crash was due to spending too little on maintaining its IT systems.

Ross McEwan, the newly installed RBS chief executive, said: "For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems."

He said he would be outlining a plan in the new year to step up investment in the computer systems.

RBS, which is 82pc owned by the UK government, was investigated by Britain's Financial Conduct Authority in April when a failure in its technical systems left customers unable to use the bank's card and online services.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said it expected all banks to have proper systems in place so that customers are not denied access to their money.

"The Central Bank is aware of the issue with Ulster Bank and we are in contact with the firm. Customers with concerns should contact Ulster Bank directly," the regulator said.

Irish Independent

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