IT chaos to cost Ulster Bank ‘tens of millions’

The head of Ulster Bank has predicted the technical issues which have beset the bank over the past month will cost it “tens of millions” of euro in compensation payouts to customers.

Ulster Bank CEO Jim Brown revealed the bank is setting in place a scheme to compensate thousands of Irish customers affected by IT failures since Jun 19 in “recognition of inconvenience caused”.

He said the compensation scheme would offer “a range of solutions” and a plan to refund “out-of-pocket expenses” to customers would be announced shortly but declined to reveal any further details.

In a statement issued earlier yesterday, however, the bank, which has been dogged by missing a number of promised deadlines in relation to solving its IT crisis, claimed details of both measures would be issued “later this week”.

It later issued revised statements to clarify that its plans for compensating customers would be revealed “shortly”.

The bank is liaising with the Financial Regulator and consumer groups about the details of the plans.

Mr Brown said measures to compensate customers were being introduced as Ulster Bank understood the IT glitch had caused “significant and unacceptable disruption”.

He declined to put a figure on the number of customers who might be entitled to compensation.

However, it is known that 600,000 customers were unable to access their funds at some stage over the past month.

Ulster Bank has promised to refund all fees and charges such as overdraft fees and interest and late payment fees incurred. The bank said all such fees and charges under its control would be reversed automatically, while it was working closely with other banks to put a similar process in place.

It promised that no customer would be out of pocket as a result of expenses incurred in accessing banking services over the period of the problem.

Mr Brown said all claims for such expenses would be dealt with on a “case-by-case basis”.

Ulster Bank is also working with credit rating agencies to ensure that none of its customers’ ratings are adversely affected by the meltdown.

Mr Brown apologised to Ulster customers for the inconvenience caused by the problem and thanked them for their patience.

He said the controversy had not resulted in any significant number of customers closing accounts or on deposit levels.

Ulster is still operating a helpdesk from 8am to 10pm on 1800 205100 for anybody still experiencing difficulties with their banking.

The bank said all its IT systems were running as normal yesterday, with usual banking services restored for the majority of its customers.

However, it acknowledged that there was a backlog of outstanding transactions which could still take several weeks to clear completely, such as rectifying transactions which had been duplicated.

Asked if the controversy would result in any resignations, Mr Brown — who faced a bruising encounter before an Oireachtas committee last week when he was unable to provide answers to a number of questions — said Ulster Bank would await the findings of an independent report commissioned by its parent group, Royal Bank of Scotland, before any such decision would be taken.

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