March 28, 2013 1:37 pm

Third glitch hits RBS customers

Pedestrians pass a NatWest bank branch, a retail unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), in London, U.K., on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc's computer glitch that stopped customers from making payments and accessing money, may cost the lender ''hundreds of millions of pounds,'' according to Shore Capital Stockbrokers Ltd.©Bloomberg

Royal Bank of Scotland has apologised to retail and business customers after IT problems left them locked out of their accounts for the third time in less than a year.

On Thursday morning NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank mobile banking applications stopped working from about 6.30am until after 12pm.

The problems come three weeks after a hardware fault prevented RBS account holders from accessing their account and using ATMs, and nine months after a routine software upgrade failed, leaving millions of customers locked out of their accounts for days.

RBS, which is 82 per cent owned by taxpayers, announced earlier this month that it plans to concentrate on its UK retail banking operations, and will invest £700m over the next three years to improve branches and other customer services.

On Thursday online forums were filled with angry messages from RBS customers telling the banks that they needed to do more.

“Hey natwest, instead of giving your useless bosses at the top of natwest tower massive bonuses, try employing IT people who actually know what they are doing,” tweeted one customer.

Others were more understanding. “Never had a problem. There’s bound to be a few glitches,” wrote one user on Facebook.

Ben Green, head of digital service at RBS, said that although it was too early to say what had gone wrong with the mobile apps the problems had no impact on account security.

The rise in digital banking over the last decade means that one in five customers now use a mobile app to access their account compared with one in ten in 2010, according to research by Accenture, the consultancy.

Critics say that banks’ failure to invest properly in retail banking IT systems over the last decade means that the rise in digital banking was exposing more customers to problems.

At the same time as RBS account holders were prevented from using their mobile apps on Thursday, some HSBC customers were unable to access online bank accounts, which the bank said was because of a server problem.

In January, Lloyds Banking Group’s new Faster Payments System, designed to speed up money transfers, was hit by problems which delayed payments.

Moneysupermarket, the financial services comparison website, said the stream of IT problems were exhausting the goodwill of customers.

Kevin Mountford, head of banking at Moneysupermarket, said there had been a significant rise in customers using the website to move their current account to a new provider in the last year.

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