Online and mobile banking: your rights when something goes wrong

LaptopNationwide customers were left without access to some banking services twice last week due to IT failures.

Online and mobile banking was unavailable for several hours and angry customers took to social media sites to vent their frustrations.
But Nationwide isn't the only provider to have been plagued by technical faults. Last year thousands of RBS customers were completely cut off from their bank accounts for several days.

In March RBS customers suffered again as NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank systems were disrupted.

When this happens, it's not only stressful and frustrating, but can cause a lot of problems if you're due to make a standing order payment, for example, which doesn't go through.

However, instead of just ranting on Twitter, you can take a more proactive approach and ask your bank for compensation.

Computer failures
Last week it was Nationwide customers who were stuck without certain banking services. But even if you weren't affected there is no guarantee it won't be your bank next.

If this does happen, the provider should put a message out, either on its website or social media feeds, to let customers know exactly what is happening.

Last week thousands of customers took to Twitter to find out what had happened to their accounts and speak directly to Nationwide. This is a really good way of finding out instantly how you've been affected and getting a response from a company.

For those people who aren't online, calling up the bank or visiting a branch is another option – although this is likely to take some time.

The amount of compensation available will depend on the individual bank or building society but if you've been left out of pocket, you should be refunded.

RBS put aside £125 million in compensation when its computer systems went down last June and customers were encouraged to contact the bank if they had been affected. In this case you'll need to keep records of anything you've paid out extra for – such as if money has been withdrawn twice from your account by accident.

Even if this hasn't happened, the bank may set aside money to compensate people for the stress and annoyance of losing their banking access. However, this is typically judged on a case-by-case basis and can take a while to happen.

Instead you could always lodge a complaint directly with your bank.

Complaining to your bank
In the first instance you'll need to complain directly the bank, in writing. It helps to include as much detail as possible, along with copies of receipts if you've been left out of pocket.

It then has eight weeks to respond to you. If after this time you've not received the response you want, you can take the complaint further and go to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Our article - Financial Ombudsman Service: how to complain to the FOS – has step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

Switching current accounts
If you're fed up with your bank you could always act with your feet and switch to a different one.

There are a lot of good offers around for new customers so it's worth taking advantage of these if you're looking to switch. First Direct, for example, will give all new customers £100 just for joining and setting up a current account.

To find out more, you can view the top current accounts in our comparison tables and our article – How to switch current accounts – will guide you through the process.

10 consumer rights you should know
See Gallery
Online and mobile banking: your rights when something goes wrong

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


More stories

Read Full Story