Millions cashless in bank glitch
November 27, 2010
ONE of Australia's biggest banks is scrambling to process payments to millions of customers, who potentially face days of uncertainty about when they will be able to access their money.
A corrupted file in the National Australia Bank's computers on Wednesday jammed its payment system, hitting customers from a range of banks who rely on the NAB to process payments.
The bank, which last night was considering opening extra branches during the weekend, could not say when the problem would be fixed. It had hoped to resolve the problem on Thursday.
The Herald has been inundated by anxious NAB customers, some of whom had checked online to find their past month's transactions rubbed out and their accounts credited with nothing.
Property deals were being put on hold, car sales suspended, wages not transferred, and direct debit payments for mortgages and bills stopped.
The glitch is a humiliation for the chief executive, Cameron Clyne, who this week said customers were beginning to appreciate the bank's efforts to differentiate itself from its rivals.
A spokeswoman said any charges incurred because of the computer failure would be covered by the bank. But customers would have to make their own arrangements to contact the NAB.
The smaller banks Citibank and HSBC confirmed that their payments had also stalled because they use the NAB to process transactions.
The executive director of the Australian Retailers' Association, Russell Zimmerman, lamented the possible impact on the weekend's trade. ''It is a huge disappointment for the retail industry, and for those people who have been relying on their funds to come in from their wages and can't access them.
''People have to be aware that if they are going to use taxis, or load up their supermarket trolleys, they could get to the counter and find they can't process their sales,'' he said.
NAB customers expressed anger, grief and disbelief that such a crippling problem could hit one of the big four banks.
Peter Bogdanoff, a car salesman at Central Coast Eurocars Gosford, said not only had his pay not gone in, but a whole month's worth of transactions appeared to have been wiped from his online account.
Mr Bogdanoff also had clients with no money to finalise their car purchases this weekend.
Derek Sequeira, a manager at Charles Sturt University in Albury, said he would try to organise a class action against the NAB.
Emma Jane, a 34-year-old administrator from Townsville, said she had just returned from holidays and was relying on her pay packet to last the weekend.
The NAB spokeswoman said the bank had put on additional call centre staff. Some customers would also have difficulty taking money out from ATMs.
On Thursday Mr Clyne issued a rallying call to the banking industry to acknowledge why it was so unpopular with the public.
''The industry needs to stop being as arrogant as it has been. It needs to be less defensive, less dismissive. It needs to be more open, it has to do more listening, it has to display more empathy, it has to display more action,'' he said.