Bank faces deluge of refund claims
ULSTER Bank is expected to be deluged with thousands of claims for refunds after an unprecedented computer systems breakdown denied people access to their wages.
These will include demands from people who have missed direct debits or mortgage payments, those who have seen overdraft limits breached, and customers who have been forced to turn to credit cards to access ready funds.
All of these carry higher interest rates, or penalties, which would not have occurred if people had been able to access their current accounts normally.
The bank has promised that nobody will be out of pocket, but sifting through all the complaints and determining which are genuine will take months.
Customers are likely to continue a long waiting game until their financial affairs are completely back in order. And the bungling bank faces another key test tomorrow when a huge number of customers are due to be paid their monthly salaries.
Customer were still experiencing problems accessing their funds yesterday, more than a week after the computer meltdown occurred.
Consumers' Association boss Dermott Jewell said the problem has been badly managed and customers were suffering. And Fianna Fail called for a full Central Bank investigation.
A spokeswoman for the bank admitted yesterday that 150,000 customers had been affected by the IT debacle. Up to now it had been saying 100,000 customers were affected, including those who do not bank with Ulster but are paid through it.
The computer systems have been restored at the British-owned bank but it is taking a massive effort by staff to work through a nine-day backlog of payments that have not been processed.
Last night the bank said: "We continue to work around the clock to clear the backlog of payments caused by the RBS Group-wide IT issue. We are making progress, which is increasing our confidence that we will restore a full service by the beginning of next week."
The Irish Credit Bureau will offer free credit checks to Ulster Bank customers next month to reassure them that their ratings have not been impacted.
The bureau is asking other banks to ensure that if there is a payment default from an Ulster Bank account, that the bank checks before notifying the bureau to ensure it is not related to the IT crash.
The Central Bank and Ulster Bank have also said they are working to ensure credit ratings are not hit.
The Department of Social Protection said another 60,000 welfare recipients with Ulster Bank accounts face a second week of difficulty in accessing money.
Eighty branches will remain open until 7pm this week with customers advised to bring payslips and ID to access funds.
Managing director of branch banking at Ulster Bank, Jim Ryan, said the ATM system was now fully back in operation. However, many of these are showing up incorrect balances, which means people cannot withdraw money though an ATM.