Technical problems affecting 12 million NatWest customers since last week appear to finally be abating.
Account holders had problems paying bills, viewing their transactions online and receiving payments such as wages. Some customers of sister banks RBS and Ulster Bank had also reported trouble with their accounts.
Many angry customers have taken to Twitter and online forums to vent their frustrations. One person even told Which? via Twitter that he had not been able to complete his house purchase due to the fault.
@vCJv tweeted: ‘Due to #natwest technical issue, I’m currently homeless. My house purchase failed to complete. I’ll be switching bank ASAP.’
RBS has stated that all mortgage completion payments have been processed and that it will continue to ensure that this remains the case going forward.
Action point: If you have had problems with NatWest over the past week, read our guide to making a complaint about NatWest.
RBS chief executive apologises for problems
The technical hitch which caused the disruption has now been fixed and RBS says it expects most customers to see their accounts returning to normal by the end of today. It has also extended their opening hours 1,000 branches until 7pm tonight to help anyone continuing to experience problems.
Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester said: ‘I am very sorry for the difficulties people are experiencing. Our customers rely on us day in and day out to get things right, and on this occasion we have let them down. This should not have happened.
‘Our staff have already helped thousands of customers to access cash and we will continue to provide this service on a 24-hour basis while we work to resolve the problems.
‘I also want to reassure customers that no-one will be left permanently out of pocket as a result of this, and again, they should contact us directly about this.’
NatWest obliged to repay any late payment charges
The bank has promised to refund any charges customers incur through not being not being able to pay bills. They have also said they will automatically waive any overdraft fees and customers who have had to call 0845 numbers for assistance will have the costs reimbursed.
According to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) banks are obliged to return affected customers to the position they should have been in had the problem not occurred. Customers will not automatically be entitled to extra compensation for the disruption but FOS advises customers to keep a record of how the problems have affected them in case they need to complain at a later date.
The bank has also committed to working closely with credit ratings agencies to ensure customers’ credit ratings are not damaged as a result of the problems.
Charges for non-customers
What is not clear is whether RBS will take any action to reimburse non-customers who have been affected. For example many people whose employer banks with NatWest, Ulster Bank or RBS have complained of not receiving their wages.
RBS has so far made no commitment to reimburse anybody in this situation. But people should keep a record of any extra charges they have faced should they want to complain to the FOS.
Consumers should not be out of pocket
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, says: ‘NatWest should compensate everyone who’s been affected and is out of pocket, no questions. Other banks should also show flexibility and waive any charges that have been caused by problems at NatWest.
‘This raises a wider question about how robust other banks’ IT systems are. The Financial Services Authority must now urgently examine the systems and controls in all banks and launch a detailed investigation into the cause of the RBS failure.’