Ulster Bank compensation scheme under fire from local politicians

September 4, 2012

Details of the long awaited compensation scheme by Ulster Bank were announced last week amid heavy criticism from local political representatives, who have branded the measures “inadequate” and “too little, too late.”

In an effort to make amends to all customers who had suffered as a result of the notorious IT glitch, Ulster Bank issued a statement advising thousands of inconvenienced customers how to claim compensation.

Ulster Bank Chief Executive, Jim Brown, said the bank recognized that it had “work to do” to restore customers’ trust and described the compensation scheme as “the first step in that direction.”

He apologized “unreservedly” to Ulster Bank customers and those of other banks who had been affected by the glitch and added,

“We have worked with our key stakeholders to ensure the additional measures which we are taking provide a comprehensive response to customer concerns and demonstrate our commitment to making amends.”

The bank have agreed to refund customers for any fees and interest which were unfairly charged during the fiasco when they were overdrawn or exceeding their limit on their current account.

Current and Savings Account holders who lost interest payments because Ulster Bank delayed a payment will also be refunded.  The majority of such adjustments should be completed by the end of October this year.  An Ulster Bank statement also confirmed that “out of pocket” expenses could be claimed and that personal and SME customers will benefit from an additional 20% on top of these expenses up to a maximum of £100.

The bank have promised free credit reports for worried customers and an automatic one-off payment as a gesture of goodwill because of the inconvenience caused by the long running saga.

Sinn Féin MP, Conor Murphy, described the compensation scheme as “too little, too late” and said he could see no reason why such a simple scheme had taken so long to put in place.

The Newry Armagh representative said:

“When Senior Management of the Ulster Bank appeared before the Assembly’s Enterprise Committee at the start of July, they gave assurances that these details would be ‘finalised over the next few days’ but many customers will be outraged that it has taken nearly two months for this scheme to be put in place.

“Ulster Bank’s Senior Management still have serious questions to answer.  At the time of the crisis, they were very quick to point out that it was a technical problem and up to the computer technicians to resolve.  This compensation scheme, however, is their baby, and they must explain why it has taken so long and provides so little by the way of actual compensation for affected customers.

“This is not a compensation scheme by any stretch of the imagination, but simply a reimbursement scheme for people that have been charged as a result of the bank’s failure to carry out its primary function.

“The fact that compensation for out of pocket expenses has been capped at £100 for all personal and SME’s customers further reinforces that fact.

“I would encourage people who are dissatisfied with the levels of compensation to make it known to the bank and to the Financial Ombudsman, who can be contacted on 0800 023 4567.”

SDLP Finance spokesperson, Dominic Bradley MLA, echoed those sentiments, branding the statement “inadequate” and calling on Ulster Bank to do more to compensate affected customers.

Mr Bradley said, ‘The statement by the Ulster Bank is long overdue but, unfortunately, not worth waiting for.  Many customers across this island are angry and disappointed by the way they have been treated by the bank and see this morning’s statement as an insult.’

‘For days and indeed weeks on end, thousands of people went without access to their money.  Businesses suffered serious cash flow problems and now the Ulster Bank offer them a £20 payment, and only if they actually visited a branch during that time more than they normally would.’

‘I appreciate that the bank will refund any charges incurred and they have also put in place a fee waiver for customers. However, they have capped the compensation per customer at £100 for reasonable out of pocket expenses, and yet we have heard harrowing stories of customers being stranded on holiday without money.  Some have told of falling behind in household bills because of this whole mess.  The Ulster Bank

must do better, it must do more to compensate its customers and I would hope that they will reconsider the package on offer.’