RBS to compensate IT hitch victims

The banking group behind NatWest's latest IT collapse has promised to compensate customers who were left out of pocket as a result of being blocked from accessing their cash.

Furious customers have deluged the bank with complaints about its second computer hitch to happen within a year, which has also affected sister banks Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Ulster Bank.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
RBS Group has apologised for the "unacceptable failure", which it said was due to a hardware fault unrelated to last summer's meltdown that cost the group £175 million to put right.

Problems from around 9pm on Wednesday meant that customers were barred from withdrawing money at ATMs, with reports of some having their cards "swallowed" at cashpoints. Online and telephone banking services were also disrupted.

The bank said that the hitch was cleared up a couple of hours later, but some customers were still reporting problems on NatWest's website on Thursday. The group is urging customers who have been left worse off to get in touch and promised they will not be permanently out of pocket.

A statement from RBS Group said: "This problem was caused by a hardware fault and was not related to the issues we experienced last summer. It was much easier to fix, though clearly an unacceptable failure. Any customer who was left out of pocket due to this outage should get in touch so we can put things right for them."

A spokeswoman for the group said claims will be looked at on a "case by case basis" to work out if people should be compensated for any extra costs. Customers will not be automatically entitled to a payout just because they had problems and those who believe they are entitled to some cash should keep evidence such as receipts.

The BBC quoted NatWest customer Darren Reuben who said he had to get someone else to cover a restaurant bill on Wednesday evening. Mr Reuben said he was given £70 in compensation for the embarrassment caused after turning down an offer of £30. He said: "It was paid into my account straight away. While it was embarrassing, they did me a good turn."

It is unclear exactly how many of the 17 million personal banking customers of NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank had been affected by the problems, although many people vented their frustration online. One Twitter user said: "Natwest, you left me with no dinner tonight, and left me walking home in the rain!"

In its recently-released annual report, RBS said it had been investing in technology to make it easier for people to bank with the group, including introducing more than 200 ATMs and cash deposit machines.

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RBS to compensate IT hitch victims

More than 46,000 of 106,000 the complaints received by the FOS in the second half of last year related to payment protection insurance (PPI). And the organisation is expecting to receive a record 165,000 PPI complaints in 2012/2013.

The huge numbers are due to the PPI mis-selling scandal that should now be a thing of the past, but there is no doubt that the insurance, which can add thousands to the cost of a loan, is highly unpopular!

(Pictured: Martin Lewis after the PPI payout ruling)

Complaints about mortgages jumped by 38% in the last six months of last year, the FOS figures show, compared to an increase of just 5% in investment-related complaints.

Common gripes about mortgages include the exit penalties imposed should you want to sell up or change you mortgage before a fixed or discounted deal comes to an end, and the high arrangement fees charged by many lenders.

While there is nothing in the data released by the FOS about the number of complaints relating to savings accounts, hard-pressed savers have been struggling with low interest rates for several years now.

You can get up to 3.10% with Santander's easy-access eSaver account, but many older accounts are paying 1.00% or less and even this market-leading offer includes a 12-month bonus of 2.60% - meaning that the rate will plummet to just 0.50% after the first year.

Banks are imposing the highest authorised overdraft interest rates since records began, with today's borrowers paying an average of 19.47%, according to the Bank of England.

A typical Briton with an overdraft of £1,000 is therefore forking out around £200 in interest charges alone. Coupled with meagre returns on savings, it's enough to make your blood boil!

While authorised overdrafts may seem expensive, going into the red without permission will cost you even more due to huge penalty fees.

Barclays, for example, charges £8 (up to a maximum of £40 a day) each time that there is not enough money in your account to cover a payment.

If you need to send money abroad, the likelihood is that your bank will impose transfer charges - and offer you a poor rate of exchange. Someone transferring a five-figure sum could easily lose out by £500 or more as a result.

The good news, however, is that you can often get a better deal by using a currency specialist such as Moneycorp.

Automated telephone banking systems, not to mention call centres in far-flung parts of the world, are one of our top gripes - especially as we often encounter them when we are already calling to report a problem.

In the words of one disgruntled customer: "What is it about telephone banking that turns me into Victor Meldrew? Well, maybe it's the fourteen security questions, maybe it's the range of products that they try to push or maybe it's because I'm forced to listen to jazz funk at full volume while my phone bill soars.

"Actually though, I think it's because the people I eventually speak to rarely seem able to solve the issue I'm calling about."

The days of a personal relationship with your bank manager are long gone - for the huge majority of us at least.

When ethical Triodos Bank investigated recently why around 9 million Britons would not recommend their banks to a friend or relative, it found that almost a third felt they were not treated as individuals. Another 40%, meanwhile, were simply disappointed with the customer service they received.

When you're in a rush, the last thing you want to do is wait in a long queue at your local branch.

Researchers at consumer champion Which? recently found that most people get seen within 12 minutes, but you could have a much longer wait if you go in at a busy time. Frustrating stuff!

The Triodos Bank research also indicated that the bonus culture that ensured the bank's high-flying employees received large salaries, even when it was making a loss at the taxpayer's expense, was hugely unpopular with consumers.

About a quarter of those who would not recommend their current banks said this was the main reason why. And with RBS executives sharing a £785 million bonus pool despite the bank, which is 82% publicly owned, making a loss of £2 billion last year, it's not hard to see why.

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