CUSTOMERS at RBS and NatWest were frozen out for at least four hours last night as the giant bank’s payment system crashed for the third time in 18 months, and on the busiest shopping day of the year so far.
Hundreds of thousands of transactions were blocked by the fault yesterday evening, stopping customers making purchases on Cyber Monday – the first Monday in December which is a landmark date in the retail calendar and sees online retailers take the lead with special offers and discounts.
The fault affected debit and credit card payments as well as online transfers and purchases.
Customers were also denied access to their bank statements online.
The help channel on the lender’s website also crashed and its phone lines were overwhelmed.
RBS’s payments systems previously ground to a halt in March of this year and in June 2012, affecting swathes of the bank’s 12m current account customers.
When the system crashed in summer 2012, the bank blamed a botched software update for the problems.
However, last night the lender was unable to give details of what went wrong to cause havoc this time.
RBS is already under fire after two reports last week accused the bank of mistreating small business customers, driving them to the wall in order to profit from taking over their assets.
And the crisis comes at a bad moment for the bank – a new system came into effect in September allowing customers to switch to a new bank in seven working days.
The switching service was designed in response to mounting pressure to increase competition in the sector.
“We are very sorry for the system issues that affected our customers. We will confirm when all systems have returned to normal service,” said an RBS spokesperson last night.
“If customers have been left out of pocket as a result of these system problems, we will put this right.”