IRELAND'S Minister of Finance has called for answers after a failure of some Bank of Ireland services reportedly allowed customers to transfer and withdraw money over what was in their accounts.
Michael McGrath TD said he wants to avoid a repeat situation in the wake of social media images showing large queues forming at ATMs in Ireland and gardaí at some machines.
Sinn Féin has also called for an investigation into what it branded a 'debacle', saying the incident showed profits are not being invested into customer services.
Bank of Ireland has apologised for any disruption, saying services are back to normal and that any transfers or withdrawals would be applied to customers’ accounts today.
Speaking today, Minister McGrath said his department will now look at the 'robustness of the technology systems' used by banks following the incident.
"I have asked the Central Bank of Ireland to establish a full account of what happened, why it happened and what will be done to avoid a repeat," he said.
"My officials have been in contact with the Central Bank of Ireland and Bank of Ireland today.
"Given our growing dependence on technology for the delivery of financial services, I have asked my officials to engage with the Central Bank on its assessment of this Bank of Ireland incident, and more broadly the robustness of the technology systems used by regulated, customer-facing financial service providers here in Ireland, and whether any further steps are required to reduce the risk of outages that impact on customers.
"From my point of view as Minister for Finance, financial service providers have to do whatever is required to ensure continuity of service for their customers.
"This is vital for the normal functioning of our society and our economy.
"Disruption to banking services can have a significant effect on people's personal lives and on the running of businesses.
"Customers rightly have an expectation of a high quality of service and to be able to have uninterrupted access to services."
The incident unfolded on Tuesday, when Bank of Ireland revealed that both its app and digital banking service 365 Online were experiencing difficulties.
Meanwhile, social media images showed queues forming at ATMs after reports that cash could be transferred to another digital banking app and withdrawn, even without sufficient funds.
Later images showed gardaí in attendance at some cash machines.
As Bank of Ireland worked to fix the technical difficulties, it reiterated on social media that money transferred or withdrawn without sufficient funds would still be debited.
We would like to remind customers if transferring/withdrawing funds-including over normal limits-this money will be debited from their account.We are conscious customers may not be able to check balances,but should not withdraw/transfer if they are likely to become overdrawn
— Bank of Ireland (@talktoBOI) August 15, 2023
"We are conscious customers may not be able to check balances, but should not withdraw/transfer if they are likely to become overdrawn," it posted.
As reported by BBC News, An Garda Síochána revealed it was aware of an 'unusual volume of activity' at some ATMs and deployed gardaí 'on a case by case basis… depending on the public safety and public order'.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the bank today acknowledged that some customers 'were able to withdraw or transfer funds above their normal limits'.
"These transfers and withdrawals will be applied to customers' accounts today," it added.
In a separate statement online, the bank said it had failed to meet its own standards.
"Following the outage yesterday, the App and 365 Online are back working again," it read.
"Overnight payments to accounts may appear throughout the day.
"We sincerely apologise for the disruption this outage caused — we know it fell far below the standards our customers expect from us."
Following the outage yesterday, the App and 3650nline are back working again. Overnight payments to accounts may appear throughout the day. We sincerely apologise for the disruption this outage caused - we know it fell far below the standards our customers expect from us.
— Bank of Ireland (@talktoBOI) August 16, 2023
Calling for a Central bank investigation, Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Mr Doherty claimed the bank was putting profits before customers.
"These types of IT failures have become a regular occurrence — it is not acceptable," he said.
"This latest debacle, which will inflict lasting reputational damage on Bank of Ireland, raises serious questions over its investment in its own systems and customer service at a time when its profit margins have soared."