The Money Shot - The great cyber fail

Royal Bank of Scotland
"This isn't the first time customers have been subjected to inept service by banks, and it won't be the last"
  • | by Emily Bater

The past week has been one RBS Group would rather forget.

Two IT failures in the spaces of five days hit a million disgruntled Christmas shoppers - customers of NatWest, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Ulster Bank, which are all part of RBS Group.

Queues at petrol pumps resulted, along with abandoned shopping in supermarket aisles and eager consumers left hanging on the payment pages of retail websites.

Initially hit on Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, and then again on Friday, customers were left in the lurch and flooded social media with complaints.

Customers were unable to pay for transactions using their debit or credit cards and unable to make withdrawals, stuck in limbo with no access to their own finances.

NatWest, Ulster Bank and RBS customers had payments declined and withdrawals rejected for most of Cyber Monday, when around £450m was expected to be spent online. 

These crashes are just the latest in a series of blows to the group, coming at a time when bailed-out bank RBS is fighting allegations that it was deliberately shutting down small businesses for profit.

They follow another technological calamity in March that left customers unable to access their money, while an IT meltdown in June 2012 left some customers locked out of their accounts for days.

The three IT calamities in two years have left RBS Group admitting that they should probably invest in technology. And when they say investment, they don't mean updating from Windows XP to 8.1.

But customers didn't go quietly into the good night, hands and wallets empty - instead they took to social media in their droves, voicing their anger and threatening to vote with their feet.

The government's attempts to make switching easier means changing your bank has never been quicker, and Gocompare.com's resident money expert Matt Sanders says consumers are more empowered than ever before.

"Speedy switching will, hopefully, be a wake-up call to the banking sector that if a customer isn't happy with the service they receive they are more likely to speak with their feet and change providers," said Matt, who also advises caution however when looking at what banks have on offer.

"Shop around for the best bank account for you, but don't be swayed by a few free quid here or there. Make sure the account offers what you want and what you need.

"Don't be afraid to switch - there are guarantees and assurances in place which means that the whole process is hassle free and easy to do."

Short Change - money news in brief

British Gas and SSE announced they would cut bills by £53 a year in January - not coming close to cancelling out the average bill increases they had already revealed.

E.On will raise its prices by 3.7% in January - E.On was the last of the big six to raise its prices.

The state pension age will be raised earlier than planned - by the time many of today's young people come to claim a state pension, they'll be in their 70s.

House prices rose by 1.1% in November compared with the previous month and up 7.7% annually, according to the Halifax.

On Covered mag this week

We listened to the Autumn Statement and found out nothing new.

Dave Jenkins spoke to four homeowners who've taken advantage of Help to Buy.

Our festive gift guide for pets fulfilled all your furry friend gift-buying needs.

Kristian Dando got crafty with these DIY Christmas ideas.

And finally...

A Nottingham teenager was duped after paying £450 for a photo of an Xbox One on eBay.

Peter Clatworthy was "furious" after mistakenly buying a picture of the console of the moment, despite the eBay listing stating clearly that it was indeed a photo of an Xbox One Day One.

The limited-edition version of the console, released on 22 November, is highly sought after, and one sold for £7,200 on the website. 

Speaking to the Nottingham Post, the 19-year-old said: "It's obvious now I've been conned out of my money."