22 Jun 2012

NatWest to open on Sunday as glitch hits millions

Special Correspondent and Presenter

NatWest and RBS extend their Saturday opening hours and will open on Sunday to help customers hit by a major computer glitch that has left them unable to access their money and pay bills.

The banking group will also keep branches open until 7pm on Friday for the second night in a row.

The banks, which are part of the taxpayer-owned RBS Group, said that “technical issues” with its computers meant that payments in or out of accounts had not been made since Wednesday evening.

The problems hit customers on Thursday, with people facing fines for late payment of bills because the computer meltdown left them with insufficient funds to honour direct debit arrangements or direct debit payments were not made.

In a statement, the bank said: “We are working around the clock to resolve the problem fully. We recognise this is an unacceptable inconvenience for our customers and we apologise for any difficulties they are experiencing as a result of it.

“If people are facing immediate financial difficulties as a result of this problem they should phone our call centres or visit a branch.

“We can assure our customers that this problem is strictly of a technical nature.

“We 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.

“Over 1,000 of our branches will be open until 7pm tonight to help customers with enquiries or who need access to their cash.

“In addition, our branches open on Saturday will extend working hours to 6pm, and these branches will also be open this Sunday from 9am to 12pm.

“We know that a system outage on Tuesday caused this backlog. While that outage has been resolved, the backlog itself is now the problem and RBS is working around the clock to resolve this.”

Branches kept open

The problem also affected over 100,000 customers at Northern Ireland’s Ulster Bank, which is also owned by RBS Group.

Sarah Brooks, director of financial services at Consumer Focus, said: “We hope that the problem will be resolved quickly and doesn’t happen again. Natwest and Royal Bank of Scotland should also look at providing appropriate compensation to any customer who loses out because of this failure.”

The problems led to hundreds of complaints on Twitter as people were left unable to access their cash.

Kora-Lee Holmes, a customer, told Twitter: “Missed my flight home from Greece because Natwest’s server problems mean I can’t check out of my hotel. New flights (cost) £200.”

On Thursday evening, some customers said that the issues had started to be resolved.

“We can also confirm that no customers will be permanently out of pocket as a result of this,” RBS Group said, adding that it will look at compensation on a case-by-case basis.


The bank took to Twitter on Thursday to apologise to its customers for the problem.

It said: “We recognise this has caused significant inconvenience for our customers and has impacted many of our services. This is an unacceptable inconvenience for our customers for which we apologise.”

The Financial Ombudsman Service said that anyone affected should keep a record of how they were left out of pocket. Banks are obliged to return affected customers to the position they should have been in had the problem not occurred.

A spokeswoman for UK Payments Council, which oversees payments strategy, said that the problem did not appear to have affected any other banks.

However, people expecting payments from individuals or businesses which banked with NatWest could encounter problems.