Blunder sees Concern donors paying out 100 times normal amount
An investigation has been launched into how a massive direct debit glitch left 6,000 people across Northern Ireland who donate to the charity Concern being charged 100 times the amount they had pledged.
The global aid charity blamed an "administrative error" for causing its system to accidentally process about 25,000 of its UK supporters' normal monthly direct debit donations at a far higher rate.
Angry and shocked donors were emailed on Friday to inform them that hundreds -and in some cases thousands - of pounds would be withdrawn from their accounts this week.
Now donors say they believe Concern failed to inform them quickly enough, with some thinking the email was originally spam, and describing its response as "totally inadequate".
This was denied by the charity, which said it was doing as much as it could to help.
As the news broke thousands of people used social media to contact the charity to try to gain more information.
Among those affected was Sarah McDonald from Warrenpoint, who was shocked as £400 was taken from her account. She described the situation as "horrendous".
"Thanks very much Concern for clearing £400 out of my bank and leaving me no money at all to live on for the next week until you fix it," she posted online.
The charity replied indicating where she could get help, but Sarah felt the help was inadequate.
"It's not good enough," she said. "Mistakes happen, but to leave people stuck for food, bills etc is horrendous."
Also affected was Fiona from Derry, who tweeted: "Nearly had a heart attack about this morning. Don't have £700."
The charity has since advised donors to use an indemnity claim with their bank to cancel the direct debit.
It "apologised unreservedly" and pledged it will work with the banks to ensure all donors have the error corrected by Friday and any charges due to the glitch would be paid for.
An updated statement last night said the charity was contacting those affected, and was urging them to get in touch with their bank as soon as possible to explain the error and to process an indemnity claim - which is the fastest way to be refunded.
It said if for some reason people can't file an indemnity claim Concern will process the refund, but that method will take longer.
The charity's UK executive director Rose Caldwell said: "We are conducting a rigorous investigation into how this error happened to ensure it will never happen again. Without the support of our donors, Concern would not be able to deliver its life-saving humanitarian work to vulnerable people worldwide.
"An error has been made processing the monthly direct debits of some of our supporters. Because of this, we have requested a larger amount than the normal monthly donation.
"On discovering this error we did our absolute utmost to stop the payments, but unfortunately this was not possible. If this has affected you, we deeply regret any problems caused and will refund you the full amount."
Anyone concerned is advised to contact Concern at 028 9095 0009, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.