The Irish Times among others reported here yesterday and here today that the vast majority of the Bank of Ireland's (BoI) 1.2 million customers either had experienced difficulty in accessing or lost access completely to the bank's phone, ATM and Internet banking functions from 0920 to 2230 Dublin time Tuesday. There were reports that customers were having trouble accessing their accounts at BoI's local branches as well.
The Irish Times articles say that some of BoI's customers found that their ATM cards were refused, while other customers found that they received less than what they asked for. However, other Irish bank customers apparently could use Bank of Ireland ATMs without any difficulty.
The queues at the ATMs were long as people tried to determine whether their ATM cards worked, some news stories reported. Making the queues even longer was that because of the problem (which the bank described as an "unforeseen technical problem" that interrupted "connectivity" between its customer systems and its mainframe system), some BoI customers found that they could actually withdraw more money from ATMs than they had in their bank accounts.
This sparked a rumor of "free money" being dispensed at BoI ATMs.
A senior BoI manager says in this radio interview yesterday evening posted at RTE News that this capability was a deliberate BoI business decision; the bank decided to allow customers to withdraw money up to their credit limit, even if they did not have sufficient funds in their bank accounts to cover the withdrawal.
However, the BoI manager also said emphatically in the interview that those BoI customers who did so would still be on the hook for repaying the "over-drawn" funds, along with penalties and interest.
Apparently, BoI had a change of heart overnight, since it almost seemed like a deliberate ploy by the bank to generate penalty and interest fees. A bank official quoted in this RTE News article today said that:
"For customers who became inadvertently overdrawn, Bank of Ireland will on this occasion refund any overlimit fees applied in respect of transactions conducted during the affected period and will also allow an interest free period for the amount involved."
Bank of Ireland credit cards, direct debits, standing orders and international payments and other core systems were not affected by the problems yesterday, and the bank is now saying that its ATMs and Laser card system are working normally.
However, there still seems to be problems with BoI's online and telephone banking.
A message today at the BoI online web site says:
"IMPORTANT CUSTOMER MESSAGE: MAJOR IT ISSUE"
"Bank of Ireland confirms that an unforeseen technical issue has impacted some of our operating systems this morning and our telephone and online banking services are currently unavailable. However, all branches are open and operating as normal but with a temporary restricted cash service. All ATMs are operating normally but with a restricted cash service for Bank of Ireland cardholders. Some customers may be unable to conduct point-of-sale transactions but Bank of Ireland credit card transactions are unaffected. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience they are experiencing and wish to assure them that we are working with our IT partners to ensure that all services are reinstated as a priority."
There is no word on when the issues will be fixed.
In other banking IT news, there are reports out of Australia that the National Australia Bank (NAB) has had another outage again today. The Australian reports that the problem affected NAB's ATM network, Internet banking and Eftpos.
The latest outage occurred around 1500 Sydney time and lasted about an hour (although some news stories like this one in the Sydney Morning Herald are saying that it lasted much longer than that). NAB said it didn't know what caused this latest outage, but that it was sure that the reason wasn't the same as the last one (which was a payments processing issue).
NAB admits that some of its customers are still being affected by the outage from two weeks ago, and over 6500 claims for compensation have been filed, this article in yesterday's The Australian reports.
In fact, because of the continuing problems that some of its customers are having, NAB's business banking division and technology division staff end-of-year parties are being delayed into 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting today. The newspaper says that because so many staff in those two divisions are caught up in trying to fix the mess left over from November's outage, that it would be unfair (and seen as inappropriate by its customers) to hold a party until the entire staff was available and customers were made whole again.
Hmm, holiday parties stolen by an IT glitch Grinch.
Probably more worrying to the NAB customers who are still experiencing trouble is that the end-of-year parties were scheduled for next Thursday, and so many staff are still tied up trying to untangle the problems still left.
Does that mean the bank doesn't think their customers will be made whole by even that time, more than three weeks after the outage?
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.