AIB apologises as customers hit by three-day cash withdrawal glitch
ALLIED Irish Banks came under fire after computer problems prevented some people from taking money out of their accounts during the pre-Christmas rush.
The glitch hit the bank over the course of three days, during what was expected to be the biggest spending weekend of the year.
Problems for AIB customers began on Friday afternoon and continued to plague customers over the weekend despite initial assurances that the problem had been resolved.
Yesterday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the bank blamed an outside contractor for the problem which prevented AIB customers from taking money out of ATMs belonging to other banks. To make matters worse, customers who were refused cash using non-AIB machines later found they could not take money out of AIB machines or pay by debit cards in some shops.
They were able to get cash back and use credit cards, however.
The bank apologised last night and said that the problems had finally been solved three days after they began.
The technology problems came just days after AIB chief operating officer Anne Boden said she was quitting the bank, after just 18 month in the job. Ms Boden was in charge of many aspects of the bank's IT programme. Along with other senior executives she was trying to cut costs.
She was responsible for a number of recent outsourcing projects that were not always popular with staff.
In October, she said AIB would cut at least 300 jobs in its 800-strong information technology unit over the next three years.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath called on the Central Bank to "rigorously assess" bank computer systems.
"Problems with IT systems are now becoming an all too common feature of the Irish banking system. It is simply unacceptable that bank customers would be repeatedly inconvenienced by failures of banks' IT systems," he said.
A spokesman for the Central Bank said the regulator was in regular contact with the banks to ensure computer systems worked properly.
"Customers have a legitimate expectation of high-quality, uninterrupted services," he added.
"The Central Bank expects firms to communicate clearly and promptly with affected customers when a technical incident occurs, including details of the impacted service, details of alternative access to services and an undertaking that identifiable loss will be remediated. Our expectations have been communicated to banks."
AIB, in a brief statement, said: "We can confirm that AIB debit cards are now operating normally at ATM machines, including non-AIB ATMs. AIB is continuing to monitor the situation very closely."
AIB was not the only bank to suffer technical problems recently.
Bank of Ireland also reported problems briefly on Friday which meant customers suffered payment delays to their accounts.
Ulster Bank suffered glitches a few weeks ago, and catastrophic problems last year which prevented customers accessing their money for days.
Retailers shrugged off the computer problems yesterday.
Don Nugent, director at Dundrum Shopping Centre, said that stores at Ireland's largest shopping centre had not suffered.
"It's been a bit of an inconvenience," he said. "But it was a very busy Saturday and it's been even busier today."
Blaine Callad, who heads Harvey Norman's operations in Ireland, said there was "no evidence of any impact" at the retailer's stores.
David Fitzsimons, the head of Retail Excellence Ireland, said the glitch was "inconvenient" but didn't have a major impact on shoppers.