MORE than 40,000 consumers who withdrew money from automated teller machines but walked away from the ATMs without their money are to be refunded a total of €3m by Bank of Ireland.
The bank admitted yesterday it was paying back 14,000 of its own customers and another 29,000 people who are not customers of the bank but used its ATMs to withdraw cash.
The refunds work out at around €93 per ATM cardholder affected.
Yesterday the bank insisted it had not overcharged people but that instead a minority of people had withdrawn money from an ATM machine and forgotten to take the cash with them.
Other distracted customers left their cards behind.
When consumers finish a transaction and walk away from an ATM machine leaving their cash or card behind, the machine pulls the money back in after a certain period of time.
The bank account will be debited, but if the money is not collected the account should also immediately be credited, a spokeswoman for the bank said.
For four years up to October last year a systems failure at the bank meant that people who tried to withdraw money from an ATM but forgot to take the cash with them were not refunded.
People forget to collect their money because they get distracted by a phone call or by their children, the bank spokeswoman said.
Eight transactions out of every million ATM withdrawals are found to end with people forgetting their money or their card, the bank said.
Some €16.6bn is transacted through Bank of Ireland ATMs every year.
Bank of Ireland said this issue arose following the installation of anti-fraud measures, which resulted in the normal system response of an automatic refund failing for these particular transactions.
The bank discovered the issue during internal monitoring.
Bank of Ireland is refunding €1.3m to 14,000 of its own customers this week.
A further €1.7m in refunds to 29,000 customers of other banks who left their cash in Bank of Ireland ATM machines will be paid to those banks and distributed to their customers as soon as possible.
Bank of Ireland has apologised for this error and insisted that since October 2009 it has enhanced procedures for handling all incomplete transactions so that customers' accounts will be immediately refunded.
Asked about the error yesterday the Financial Regulator said it requires firms to correct errors speedily, efficiently and fairly.
"Bank of Ireland notified the Financial Regulator of this error and we have been working to ensure that all customers are fully reimbursed."
The regulator said the process of reimbursement will be completed over the next few weeks and any customers who have concerns should contact the bank.
Non-Bank of Ireland customers should raise any queries with their own bank.
"The Financial Regulator expects all firms to have appropriate systems and control in place to prevent errors, or rectify them quickly."