RBS CUSTOMERS are among more than 100,000 whose bank accounts were hit by a technical fault that saw payments frozen, benefits stopped and access to their balance details blocked.
The system collapse also affected NatWest and Ulster Bank and led RBS group to keep more than 1,000 branches open until 7pm last night to help customers.
The fault meant some balances were not properly updated with overnight payments, leaving individuals and businesses potentially missing out on salaries and other vital transactions.
RBS apologised last night for the “unacceptable inconvenience”, and said customers would not be left out of pocket as a result of the problems.
Ulster Bank said 100,000 of its customers had been affected by “a major technical issue”.
An RBS spokesman said: “This is a technical problem affecting a large number of NatWest and Ulster Bank customers, and a small number of RBS customers, including some of our business customers.
“It was caused by a failure of our systems to properly update customers’ balances overnight.
“The main problem customers are having is where people have had money go into their accounts overnight, there may be a delay in it showing on their balance.
“This is an unacceptable inconvenience for customers, for which we apologise.”
He said the problem would be fixed “as soon as possible” and no customers would be left permanently out of pocket.
The spokesman said: “We will be keeping over 1,000 NatWest branches in all major towns and cities open until 7pm [last night] to assist customers who are unable to get to their branch during working hours.”
Susan Allen, from retail banking at RBS, assured customers that their money was safe.
She said that the issue was only affecting customers who had deposited money into their accounts in the past few days which they needed to access, but added that they were seeing “some knock-on effects” for the bank’s wider customer base, which indicated that the problem had affected a “significant number of customers”.
Although repairs were well underway by mid-afternoon yesterday, RBS acknowledged by Twitter that the issue had not been fully resolved and told customers it was “impacting some credits into your accounts”.
Despite the apologies, customers also took to Twitter to vent their frustration, with one saying: “I can’t access money paid into NatWest today due to tech problem.
“My daughter may lose her school club place if I don’t pay. Sort it out!”
Bob Spearman, from Petworth, West Sussex, said that his tax credit payment had not been paid into his NatWest account.
“We, like many other low-income families, live from week to week and the child tax credit weekly payment is a lifeline on which we rely,” he said.
A spokeswoman for UK Payments Administration, which oversees payments, said the problem was not a central one and therefore it did not appear to have affected other banks.But people expecting payments from people or businesses that bank with NatWest and RBS could encounter delays due to the technical issues at their end, she said.
Last week, RBS and NatWest, which has more than 7.5 million personal banking customers, launched a mobile banking app enabling people to take money from an ATM by making a request on their mobile phone.
Though considered a boon for customers who have been previously confined to inconvenient high street banking hours, online banking has posed a technological challenge for banks.
In September last year, millions of Lloyds Banking Group customers were unable to view transactions online for weeks, following a merger of the Bank of Scotland and Halifax internet banking systems, with many business customers locked out of their accounts entirely.
In recent years, customer satisfaction polls have shown that issues with online banking were the fastest-growing problems, with many customers saying they had to contact their banks more than once for them to be resolved.
According to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service, the banks must refund any charges incurred as a result of the error.
It says anyone charged as a result of the problem is entitled to their money back as where the bank is at fault it must return customers to the position they would be in without the error.
Clare Francis, editor of MoneySupermarket.com, said: “It is one of those things that will have been a nightmare for those people who were affected by it.
“What’s particularly hard about this occasion is that it has happened on a Thursday and that’s when a lot of benefits get paid in, so in some respects it’s the worst day of the week it could happen.”
She added that the key thing was that banks had said that nobody would be left out of pocket.