RBS fined £56m over 'unacceptable' computer failure

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Media caption,

Tracey McDermott at the FCA said RBS "failed to manage the risks in its IT systems"

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been fined £56m by regulators after a 2012 software issue left millions of customers unable to access accounts.

RBS, NatWest, and Ulster Bank customers were affected in June 2012 after problems with a software upgrade.

The Financial Conduct Authority fined RBS £42m, and the Prudential Regulation Authority fined the bank £14m.

RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton said the problems "revealed unacceptable weaknesses in our systems".

He said it "caused significant stress for many of our customers," adding: "As I did back then, I again want to apologise to all customers in the UK and Ireland that we let down two and a half years ago."

In 2012, RBS, 80%-owned by the government, set aside £125m in compensation and costs because of the disruption. Sir Philip said that since then, RBS had invested hundreds of millions of pounds to improve its computer systems.

The FCA said that the IT failure had affected more than 6.5 million customers in the UK over several weeks.

"Modern banking depends on effective, reliable and resilient IT systems," said Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA.

"The banks' failures meant millions of customers were unable to carry out the banking transactions which keep businesses and people's everyday lives moving.

"The problems arose due to failures at many levels within the RBS Group to identify and manage the risks which can flow from disruptive IT incidents and the result was that RBS customers were left exposed to these risks," she added.

'Very poor legacy'

Over the weeks of disruption, the FCA said customers could not:

  • Use online banking facilities to access their accounts
  • Obtain accurate account balances from ATMs
  • Make timely mortgage payments
  • Access cash in foreign countries

In addition, the banks applied incorrect credit and debit interest to customers' accounts, and produced inaccurate bank statements.

Some organisations were unable to meet their payroll commitments or finalise their audited accounts, FCA said.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England regulator the Prudential Regulation Authority, which jointly investigated the computer incidents with the FCA, said that 92% of the customers affected had been retail customers.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the PRA, said: "The severe disruption experienced by RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank in June and July 2012 revealed a very poor legacy of IT resilience and inadequate management of IT risks.

"It is crucial that RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank fix the underlying problems that have been identified to avoid threatening the safety and soundness of the banks."

The FCA regulates financial services in the UK, and the PRA regulates banks.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which? said that RBS should "pay the price for letting their customers down with unacceptable IT failures".

"These multi-million pound fines rightly reflect how important it is to consumers that banks properly maintain the payments system we all rely on," he said.

BBC Radio 4 presenter Paul Lewis tweeted: "RBS fines are just £8.60 per affected customer. Better surely to make bank give them all £100. This was a fundamental failure of banking."

The fines come on top of a £217m FCA penalty for RBS last week over attempted foreign exchange rate rigging.

Last week, US regulator the Commodity Futures Trading Commission also fined RBS a total of $290m (£185m) over forex rate-rigging.

RBS fines and bail-outs: a look back in time

  • November 2014 - UK regulators FCA and PRA fine £56m over 2012 IT failure
  • November 2014 - UK and US regulators hand RBS £402m fines over attempted foreign exchange rate rigging
  • August 2014 - RBS fined £14.5m by FCA over "serious failings" in mortgage business
  • December 2013 - US fines RBS $100m (£61m) over Iran sanctions-busting
  • Earlier in December 2013 - European Commission fines RBS £325m over attempted Libor interest-rate rigging
  • July 2013 - RBS fined £5.6m by FCA for incorrectly reporting trades
  • February 2013 - RBS fined £390m over its part in the Libor scandal by UK and US authorities
  • January 2011 - RBS and NatWest fined £2.8m by UK regulator for failure to deal with complaints
  • August 2010 - RBS fined £5.6m by UK authorities for anti-terror failings
  • March 2010 - RBS fined £28.6m by OFT for breaking competition law
  • December 2009 - Total economic ownership of RBS by UK government now stands at 79%
  • November 2008 - UK government becomes majority shareholder in RBS