Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the banking group that owns NatWest, has suffered another embarrassing outage when its computer systems crashed last night, leaving its 7.5 million customers unable to withdraw cash, access their current accounts or even make debit card transactions.
The fault started about 9pm last night when the bank's systems ceased handling online, phone banking, card payments and cash machine withdrawals. It was, however, reportedly fixed by 1am, although customers have still complained of problems, especially many online banking services that still appeared to be unavailable.
The problems also affected customers of Ulster Bank, as well as RBS and NatWest.
Although the bank failed to update its website to notify customers of the problem - or even to apologise - it did post the following statement on its Facebook page:
"We are disappointed that our customers have faced disruption to banking services for a period this evening, and apologise for that. All services are now running as normal again."
However, many customers were complaining of continuing problems accessing their accounts online and using cash machines this morning. Some, on Twitter, said that they had also endured problems last week and on Monday this week, too.
It follows a similar week-long outage in June 2012, caused by a software update that was applied without proper testing first. Then, many businesses were also unable to make payment runs, preventing salaries from being paid on time.
CEO Stephen Hester was forced to apologise for the severity of that problem and the bank had to compensate customers who had been plunged into overdraft or whose payments had failed, in many cases causing late-payment and other penalties to be levied.
Ralph Silva, a banking analyst, suggested that the repeated failures at RBS are due to under-investment. "The bank has been lagging behind on technology investment and it is showing," he said.
Computing also published a feature by an insider at RBS, lifting the lid on the culture of the company's IT function, which led to the embarrassing outage.
"I had to get my info from twitter! No details anywhere else about whole system being down. Poor show"
"Couldn't log into my account to transfer money so couldn't buy a beetle drive game on eBay. Bad times. Hope it's not sold."
"Prevented me paying for a very tasty curry!"
"Dear #Natwest, now that you're 80% state owned, fancy bringing the IT jobs back to the UK? I can see a few benefits to your service too."
"If you bank with #Natwest, send them a letter explaining that they have messed up and charge them £30 for the privilege."
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