Several of the UK’s largest banks and building societies have been hit by an IT outage at US payments company TSYS that left their customers unable to pay credit card bills or access account information.
Royal Bank of Scotland, Nationwide Building Society and Tesco Bank were among the lenders affected by the problems, which came at a crucial time for some customers with monthly bills becoming due.
The widespread issues highlight a challenge for banks, which are under pressure to improve their resilience to IT problems but often rely on services from third-party suppliers.
TSYS, a payments processor that is being bought by US rival Global Payments for $21.5bn, apologised for causing the disruption on Tuesday evening after the FT first reported that it was the source of the outages.
A spokesperson for TSYS said: “A hardware-related issue which impacted the service we provide some of our European clients has been resolved. We are continuing to monitor our systems and are working closely with our clients to ensure everything is functioning properly.”
Customers of RBS and NatWest, another RBS brand, began reporting problems with their mobile app in the early hours of Monday. The glitch continued into Tuesday, and a member of staff told the Financial Times that call-centre staff also had “no operational systems”, leaving them unable to help with customer queries.
The timing was particularly bad for RBS customers, coinciding with an August 20 deadline to pay credit card balances without incurring interest or other charges.
RBS said: “We apologise to any customers impacted and are working with the third-party provider to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. Customers can continue to use their credit cards as usual and no customer will be left out of pocket.”
Scrutiny of IT issues at financial firms has increased since a series of high-profile problems at companies including TSB and Visa last year.
The Financial Conduct Authority reported a 138 per cent increase in technology outages in 2018. The impact of such problems has grown as customers have moved to online and phone banking.
Problems are often blamed on the complex IT systems of high-street banks, which have been built up piecemeal through decades of incremental upgrades and acquisitions. However, several new lenders have also run into difficulties because of third-party suppliers.
Last month, digital bank Revolut blamed Wirecard for a problem that caused some customers to be charged twice for transactions, while rival Monzo said a third-party supplier was at fault when it was unable to carry out bank transfers for a day in May.
RBS still holds the record for the largest UK fine for an IT outage, after it was charged £56m over a 2012 issue that caused several weeks of disruption.