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Tech glitches affect NatWest & Nationwide customers

Weeks after a software glitch left hundreds of thousands of NatWest clients unable to access their balances, a second disruption has locked customers out of their accounts yet again.

For some people banking with RBS, NatWest, and Ulster Bank, normal service has only just resumed - more than a month after the original 19 June failure. RBS said in a statement this week that it planned to offer “exceptional” help to all those affected by that outage.

But as for this latest blunder, NatWest has thus far failed to explain what exactly has gone wrong and what customers can expect, suggesting once again that the bank has as much of an IT problem as it does a customer service one.

“Some customers may have issues with their Online Banking and using their debit cards at the moment. Working as hard as we can to resolve…We'll post updates as soon as we have more information,” read a pair of tweets on the NatWest Help account.

But hours after the problem was originally reported, and acknowledged, the company had yet to make any public updates about the issue.

The June outage is believed to have prompted many users to abandon the bank in favour of greener pastures – or at least moderately reliable ones.

But NatWest isn’t the only bank with problems. Nationwide customers are currently not faring much better. Over 700,000 accounts at that bank have been affected by an error that has seen customers’ debits processed twice, beginning on Tuesday 24 July and carrying through to the next day. Some Nationwide users have reported cards being declined and balances becoming erroneously overdrawn.

In a statement on its website, Nationwide has chalked the disruption up as a “human error” and has promised an immediate fix, though it has not specified the nature of the error.

“All charges will be refunded in full and any costs associated with this error will be reimbursed in full. None of our customers will suffer financial loss as a result of this one-off error,” the company wrote.

Rather predictably, unsatisfied customers have taken to the Web to complain about the disruptions, with Twitter being their medium of choice for sharing complaints, more complaints, and plain old harsh words directed at the two banks.

“Hope #NatWest fix their systems soon. I want to buy some food for my boy,” tweeted Alastair McKenzie, highlighting the potential seriousness of the real-world repercussions of such outages.

“I suppose I'd better have a look & see if #NatWest has naused my life up. You're on your final warning,” tweeted a user under the pseudonym molesworth_1.

These glitches come at the end of a day during which both Twitter and Google Talk crashed, raising questions about crucial issues like IT contingency plans, business continuity, and reliability in enterprise environments.