Belfast Telegraph

Anger grows as Ulster Bank dithers over deal on payouts

By Claire McNeilly and Gerard Walton

Ulster Bank is coming under increasing pressure from customers who want to know details of its compensation scheme after last month’s computer glitch sparked chaos.

Stormont finance committee chairman Daithi McKay accused the bank of mishandling its recent banking crisis to “an incredible degree”.

And he slammed its communication skills as “absolutely appalling” as questions over how customers will be compensated enter a sixth week.

The Sinn Fein MLA was responding to a statement from Ulster Bank which will have inspired little confidence in those expecting a quick end to financial woes.

Millions of customers are still waiting to hear how and when they will be compensated for loss of earnings after thousands of accounts were frozen for a month.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that there are still no details available with regard to compensation package — which head of retail banking Stephen Cruise said would be made public last week.

Some 600,000 people in Northern Ireland and the Republic suffered from the technical glitch.

“The Ulster Bank have had more than enough time,” said Mr McKay. “People are in need of some direction as to what is happening. This is affecting other banks and businesses.

“There has been no leadership with providing clarification and they need to be coming out and getting the work done.”

Mr McKay questioned the reliability of information coming from Ulster Bank, and said that customers had been misinformed as to when details would be made available.

Former Finance Minister Nigel Dodds has also branded the crisis “totally and utterly unacceptable”.

The statement published by the Ulster Bank said it would “provide details to our customers as soon as we can”.

That will not be long enough for those who have been paying for the bank's mistakes ever since the computer meltdown on June 19, said Mr Dodds.

He said the bank needs to get a grip if it is serious about maintaining its reputation. He led a delegation on July 4 to meet with the chairman of Ulster Bank’s parent company Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

“One issue I raised specifically was the need to put resources into compensation for everyone affected, and not just Ulster Bank customers,” Mr Dodds said.

More than three weeks on, this is yet to happen.

From companies unable to process orders to the individuals facing charges on an overdraft they hadn't planned for, the list of casualties is long, and with people having to borrow money and incur interest elsewhere, uncertainty is rife.

Martin Bartolo (21), a Pizza Hut worker from Lisburn, had been told that his account would be back to normal by July 16.

He did not receive his full pay packet until July 20.

“I'm really unhappy about how I have been treated,” he said.

“This is outrageous.”

Mr Dodds described circumstances such as these as “appalling” and “scandalous”.

“This has left people seriously out of pocket and they must be paid back with interest”, the North Belfast MP said.

“There must be no quibbles with paying back any of the money owed. People should not be put through anxiety fighting for what is rightfully theirs.”

With the bank unable to disclose details of how this will happen, customers will continue to leave in their droves, he said.

An Ulster Bank spokesman said last night: “We have already started to correct and reverse fees and charges to Ulster Bank customers impacted by this issue. We continue to work through the details on how we will address out-of-pocket expenses and recognition of inconvenience caused and will provide details to our customers as soon as we can.”

Nationwide have also had some problems this week.

Customers had debit card payments taken twice from their accounts after an IT hitch caused by “human error”.

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