The beleaguered Ulster Bank was again left offering apologies and promises to compensate customers yesterday as the latest IT breakdown left consumers unable to access their cash for hours on Monday night.
At the same time, Ross McEwan, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland group which owns the Ulster, admitted that it had failed to invest properly in systems for decades as he offered his own apologies to RBS and NatWest customers.
The IT failure on the busiest online shopping day of the year left people unable to use credit and debit cards for three hours on Monday night while the banks’ websites and smartphone apps were also affected.
Mr McEwan said yesterday: “Last night’s systems failure was unacceptable. Yesterday was a busy shopping day and far too many of our customers were let down, unable to make purchases and withdraw cash.”
A spokesman for the Ulster said: “The systems issues that affected our customers last night have now been resolved and all our services are now back working normally.
“We would like to apologise to our customers. If anyone has been left out of pocket as a result of these systems problems, we will put this right.”
Mr McEwan, however, went further than his predecessor Stephen Hester in the wake of the last IT fiasco.
“For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems,” said Mr McEwan.
“We need to put our customers’ needs at the centre of all we do. It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience we caused our customers. We know we have to do better.
“I will be outlining plans in the New Year for making RBS the bank that our customers and the UK need it to be. This will include an outline of where we intend to invest for the future.”
The IT failure left some customers unable to pay after filling up with petrol or to settle restaurant bills, while others were forced to abandon full shopping trolleys at the check-out. It was the latest in a string of computer meltdowns for RBS.
It also coincided with the so-called Cyber Monday, when retailers expected the highest number of online transactions to take place ahead of Christmas – and prompted a flurry of card users to take to Twitter to vent their anger at being unable to complete online purchases.
The Ulster Bank said yesterday that services had returned to normal, though complaints were still being reported in relation to RBS and NatWest.
Reports of the IT failure began to surface on Twitter at around 6.30pm on Monday.
In May, another glitch left RBS and NatWest customers using mobile apps unable to access their accounts online.
It followed a major fiasco in June last year which saw payments go awry, wages appear to go missing and home purchases and holidays interrupted – and cost the group £175 million in compensation.