There was a story in today's New York Times about a glitch in Citibank's iPad bill pay application that charged some Citibank customers twice when paying off a bill. According to the Times, the problem began last July, when Citibank rolled out the application, but it wasn't noticed as a systemic glitch until December.
Citibank's marketing literature claimed that the iPad application was "the first app from a major U.S. bank to depart from traditional ledger-style banking and offer graphs and visual representations of consumer accounts and transactions." There is a YouTube video about how the app works if you care to learn more about it.
Apparently, one reason Citibank didn't immediately discover the billing problem (even though there was some chatter about the problem in cyberspace soon after the application's introduction, the Times says) was that the glitch apparently affected only 2 percent of the financial transactions using the app. In addition, many of the customers resolved the over-charges soon after they occurred so there wasn't a clear bread trail to the app. Further, many customers thought they caused the problem by accidentally double-clicking when paying their bills.
The Times story says that:
"In late December, the bank tracked the error to an internal flaw. A technical command on the bank’s iPad application, it turned out, was wrongly set to redo transactions that had initially failed."
Citibank has been notifying customers of the problem, and reversing erroneous double charges. The bank says that it will be making good on any customers' fees that might have been incurred because of the extra charge. In addition, it will be refunding lost interest and adding a small number of points "for its rewards program, called ThankYou, as an apologetic gesture," the Times says.
The Times story notes, however, that some customers who didn't pay their bills using the iPad app have also complained about double billing. So watch this space.
If anyone knows of any toll billing glitches or has more insight into the CItibank iPad issue, please let me know.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.