Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank IT meltdown compensation details revealed

By Ed Carty

Ulster Bank customers hit by the month-long IT meltdown which crippled the bank are to be offered a one-off compensation payment and free banking for three months.

Under the package, worth at least £28 million, the bank will give 25 euro to personal current account holders in the Republic of Ireland and £20 to Northern Ireland customers.

The offer is open to anyone forced to use branch banking more often than normal during the four-week data chaos.

Ulster Bank also vowed to waive certain fees, charges and surcharge interest for three months as it bids to rebuild its reputation among its 600,000 customers.

Chief executive Jim Brown reiterated his apology to customers.

"We recognise that we have work to do to restore our customers' trust in us and we believe that this is the first step in that direction," he said.

"We have worked with our key stakeholders to ensure the additional measures which we are taking provide a comprehensive response to customer concerns and demonstrate our commitment to making amends."

Ulster Bank said it was offering the payment to cover inconvenience caused during the IT crisis between June 19 and July 18.

Customers are also being urged to claim from the bank for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred during the technical chaos.

The bank said it will start processing claims from Monday, with personal and small business customers in the Republic also offered a top-up 20% up to a maximum payout of 120 euro and £100 for Northern Ireland customers.

It has urged customers to back up claims with paperwork such as phone bills, bus tickets, travel receipts, bills or invoices.

For customers with savings on deposit the bank has also offered a one-off payment.

It will be the equivalent of an additional rate for three months of 0.06% gross, 0.25% on the average daily balance, between September 1 and November 30 this year. It will be automatic and applies to personal banking and small business customers with a savings account.

Ulster Bank said any errors made on fees, charges and debit interest will be corrected by the end of October.

Elsewhere, Ulster Bank has given a commitment to delay the introduction of maintenance fees for all personal current account holders until July 2013.

Amid fears that the banking breakdown will damage customers' credit rating, free financial health checks are being offered from the Irish Credit Bureau. Reports on ratings will be available within five days for customers who have any concerns.

Ireland's Central Bank said investigations into how the technical failure at Ulster Bank and the wider RBS Group emerged and developed are continuing.

And customers in the UK and Ireland have been urged to approach the Financial Ombudsman if they fail to get satisfaction over losses.

In the UK, the Consumer Council said bank customers may qualify for compensation for more than just financial loss.

"We have guidance on the types of things people can claim for which include losses which aren't financial, such as trouble, stress and inconvenience," it said.

The meltdown was caused when Ulster Bank's parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) - bailed out by the UK Government - moved to upgrade its IT systems.

RBS customers and those from another subsidiary, NatWest, had ordinary banking services back up and running within days but the chaos lasted for a month in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Due to the way the technology was set up when the three banks were integrated, Ulster Bank payments follow in sequence after those of NatWest and RBS, although RBS Group has said that this "in no way" reflects any priority given to customers.

Last month, RBS Group chief executive Stephen Hester placed an open letter on consumer help website MoneySavingExpert, in which he said customers who suffered knock-on costs as a direct result of the problems would be reimbursed, no matter who they bank with.

People have been urged to keep evidence of extra charges, such as emergency travel tickets, so they can prove they were out of pocket.

RBS/NatWest charges wrongly applied between June 19 and July 6 have been automatically refunded to customers, but people might need to make a claim for those after July 6, the banking group has said.

The failure left many customers unable to see or use cash paid into their accounts, meaning delayed home purchases, disappearing wages and disrupted holidays.

Bernard Sheridan, director of consumer protection with Ireland's Central Bank, urged the bank's customers to be proactive and make contact over the compensation payments.

"Customers of other banks who were affected should get in touch with their own bank in the first instance to seek redress for loss and inconvenience," he said.

"If customers are not satisfied with the outcome, they can make a formal complaint to their bank.

"While Ulster Bank is required to reimburse and make good any actual losses suffered by customers, the level of any payment for inconvenience suffered is not subject to the Central Bank's regulatory standards or approval.

"This is a commercial decision for Ulster Bank."

Belfast Telegraph

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