Friday 26 April 2019

Top bank pays back 120,000 hit by card blunder

Laser users double-charged

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

STAFF at Bank of Ireland have been working through the night to refund millions of euro to 120,000 customers who were mistakenly double-charged every time they used their Laser card since last Friday.

The bank admitted that a problem with its software meant customers had their accounts debited on the double when they used their cards in the past few days. The blunder sent thousands of customers into the 'red' in error.

And that forced the bank to promise to refund overdraft fees and penalties to anyone who had too much money withdrawn from their current accounts.

People who used their card to pay €120 for their groceries, for example, ended up being charged €120 on the day of the transaction and then another €120 a few days later.

A number of irate customers affected by the glitch contacted the Irish Independent.

The bank admitted last night that there was a problem with its Laser cards and promised to refund money to any customers who were overcharged. The problem was discovered yesterday afternoon.

As the software breakdown took place over the weekend -- one of the busiest times for customer transactions -- millions of euro are likely to be involved.

A spokeswoman for the bank described it as a "glitch in the bank's system" and insisted that no customer would be left out of pocket once stretched staff have completed an intensive investigation of all Laser transactions in the past few days. The Financial Regulator has been notified.

The bank refused to comment on the amount of money or the numbers of customers involved.

But the Irish Independent has spoken to a number of customers affected by the mistake, who said bank staff told them as many as 120,000 people had been affected by the double-charging.

One women said she had been pushed into an overdraft situation after she made a purchase on her Laser card that was debited on the double from her bank account.

She called for the bank, which is protected by the State, to waive any overdraft fees charged as a result of the error.

The spokeswoman for the bank said: "Bank of Ireland is aware of an issue that has affected some Laser card transactions and has resulted in a duplication of transactions in some instances.

"The cause of the problem is now being fully investigated and any customers with duplicate transactions will be resolved."

The overcharging muddle is just the latest controversy for the bank, which was forced to ask taxpayers to stump up €3.5bn to recapitalise it earlier this year after it made huge losses on toxic developer loans.

Last year Bank of Ireland was accused of negligence following the revelation that it lost four laptops containing the details of around 10,000 life assurance customers.

The laptops were stolen from four different staff members between June and October the previous year, but the Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes was only informed of the thefts much later.

The bank has admitted that the information was not encrypted, although lesser forms of security, such as password protection, were in place.

Experts said that still meant that the information on the laptops could be easily accessed by a computer professional.

The thefts sparked a major security alert at the bank and the Consumers' Association urged the data commissioner to take strong action.

In April 2006, Bank of Ireland admitted overcharging customers up to €18m for payment protection insurance.

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