BY KATE HEANEY
EXASPERATED customers exiting Ulster Bank in Letterkenny yesterday (Thursday) described the third week of problems with their accounts as “diabolical”.
One local distribution business owner told the Donegal News they have not been able to track movements on their bank account since June 20 when the problems started. Even the Ulster Bank Business Centre in Galway cannot tell them what is happening as they too cannot see the movements on the account.
“The bank say they will compensate anyone who is out of pocket as a result of their computer problems – how do you compensate a business for their reputation and credibility if this puts them out of business or their suppliers get a cheque that bounces.
“We don’t know if customers who pay us online have paid nor do we know if cheques we are writing to suppliers are being honoured by the bank. It’s a complete disaster – as if business wasn’t difficult enough at present,” the local business women said.
Individual customers outside the bank spoke of wages not being paid in and mortgage and other bill payments not being made.
“I have been queuing for an hour – it is very inconvenient. They cannot tell me if my payments to the Credit Union have been made or not or whether or not my mortgage payment has been made. You cannot keep track of your money going in and out. It’s just not good enough in this day and age,” one woman exiting the bank said.
Another customer said she had just returned from a holiday in Portugal and fortunately had savings in her account she could draw on while she was there.
“When I looked at my account when I got home I thought I hadn’t spent any money while away, but now I know that is not the case – it just isn’t showing up. My internet banking is not available.
“The staff have been very helpful and very apologetic. It does make you worry about these big banks – how sound are they at the end of the day.
“My sister who works for the HSE who gets her wages paid through this bank is still in Portugal – I hope she can access her money,” the lady added.
A Galway man in Letterkenny on holidays said his own Ulster Bank branch in Galway actually offered him cash without his having to ask for it.
“I have been able to draw cash from the ATM here so I presume the cheque I lodged over a week ago has gone through. I thought it fair enough when my own branch offered me money.
“Part of the Croke Park Agreement was accepting electronic salary payments which has contributed to lay-offs at banks – now we are seeing the chickens coming home to roost with what has happened with Ulster bank.
“When it first happened we thought maybe four days disruption, no one would have imagined it will be nearly four weeks before it is sorted. I was lucky enough,” the Galway native said.
A young mother exited the bank having managed to get her childrens’ allowance payment two days late.
“I was able to manage with two days late but would not have been able to manage any more than that. I have two small children to feed,” she added.
A male customer had gone in to query a mini-statement he got from the ATM which showed a transaction he did not make.
“They had better not try to penalise me if my mortgage is late as I have been waiting two weeks for payments to come through my account and only one came through.
“How come they managed to fix England and Scotland, but not us. People are now saying that maybe they shouldn’t have a banking license. They are the only bank that offers free banking here – maybe they will now add on charges to cover this mess – I am not at all impressed by their performance,” he said.
One mother explained that she has been going into the bank and queuing to get cash as her wages and childrens’ allowance are not showing up on her account.
“They give you cash and write it in a book. While they are very apologetic it is just not good enough. I have heard rumours that the bank’s systems were hacked and they are not admitting what has happened – I don’t know if that is true but why are they taking so long to fix it?” she added.
A common concern for those the Donegal News spoke to outside Ulster Bank was that when this is all over their accounts will show deficits because they are unable to keep track of what is going out of their accounts.
“If at the end of this I am €500 overdrawn, I won’t be able to pay it because we are finding it hard enough to make ends meet – what will Ulster Bank do then. They gave me cash without even asking for any ID – that’s a bit worrying!” a customer said.