What to do if your bank’s IT systems fail

3 min read
January 18, 2019

Hit by a banking slowdown? Here’s a quick guide to your rights and what to do next.

When a bank’s systems go down, the impact on people can range from a minor inconvenience to people being left completely stranded. The longer the problem goes on, the more significant the impact can be.

Here’s a short guide to your rights!

  • Don’t panic. If you’ve got another card or access to funds, use it.
  • Can’t pay for something? So you’ve just had dinner and now you’re panicking you’ll have to do the washing up for a week because your card has been declined. Don’t worry! Show the shop/restaurant/business this article so they know there’s a problem Ask if they’ll take your details to arrange a payment later or give them permission to debit your card number (get a confirmation of the amount they’ll take and keep the receipt).
  • Stranded? Is there another bank around? If so contact your bank, (there may be a wait on the phone but stick it out) and ask if they can transfer cash or arrange for the other bank to give you the money.
  • Stranded abroad? See if you can get someone to make a payment by Western Union or another transfer service. If the situation is dire, you can ask your bank to try something like this too.

Here’s a bit more information – and tips on how to get any cash you’ve lost back.

Missing money. If money vanished from your account, not only are you entitled to get it back straight away, you could be able to ask for compensation for the amount of time it wasn’t available. This is usually set at a rate of 8% interest on the missing sum.

Unable to access your money. Loads of people were caught out by not being able to use their own cash. The bank should have made money available to people affected, via branches or other sources where possible. This kind of complaint turns on the personal impact on you. So take some time to note down what went wrong, how long it went on for and the financial losses you experienced. Which brings us to…

Distress and inconvenience. It’s hard to put into words how not being able to use your own money affected you, but you can ask for a ‘gesture of goodwill’ payment to reflect the impact the problems had on you. This is largely symbolic, but if you want a larger sum, explain in as much detail as you can how the problems affected you.

Bounced bills. Banks should compensate for interest and charges for bounced bills and payments that didn’t get made. Make sure you have a list of these payments, the firms and people involved and any charges you faced as a result of the payment bouncing.

Credit reference agencies. Bounced mortgage, loan, credit and other debt payments can result in a missed payment marker being placed on your file with a credit reference agency. If you missed a payment, ask the firm to confirm in writing if they placed a marker and that they have removed it. If they refuse, complain!

Consequential loss. Sorry about the terminology! Consequential loss is a real grey area when it comes to compensation. It basically means losses that have happened as a consequence of a problem. So if you weren’t able to compete on a house purchase because of the problem and the deal fell through, those losses are ‘consequential’. You don’t get the price of the house back! But you could ask for agent fees, survey costs, etc. if you can prove the losses stemmed from the problem. Consequential loss isn’t always that dramatic, it could be taxi fees for example if you missed a train due to your card not working.

Data breaches. What if your account details were disclosed to strangers as a result of the error? If you’re concerned about this, or you’ve seen proof you were affected, then make a complaint. Again, there are no rules on compensation for this, but the complaint should be addressed by setting you up a new account and transferring everything over to it, then a payment to reflect the severity of the situation.

Fraud On rare occasions scammers exploit bank failures to trick you out of your money. Be cautious of calls or messages from your bank – and never give your private banking details or transfer your cash.

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