British banks are being hit by IT or security failures that prevent customers from making payments at an average rate of more than once a day, according to Which? Money.
In the most comprehensive analysis carried out since banks started disclosing serious IT glitches, the consumer group found there were 302 incidents that prevented customers from making payments in the last nine months of 2018.
Since April last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has required banks to report any major operational or security incident that prevents customers from using payment services.
Which? found that six of the UK’s biggest banks had at least one failure every two weeks. Last November, HSBC systems went down on the same day that the Treasury select committee launched a formal inquiry into banking IT failures.
Barclays had the most IT failures over the nine months, at 41. Lloyds had 37, Bank of Scotland/Halifax had 31 and Natwest had 26, Which? said.
TSB, where the botched introduction of a new IT system last year caused 1.9 million people to lose access to online banking services, reported 16 incidents. Nationwide reported five.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money’s editor, said: “Our research shows that these major banking glitches – which can cause huge stress and inconvenience to those affected – are even more common than we feared. This highlights why it is so important that a regulator is given responsibility to protect cash as a backup when technology fails and to ensure no one is left behind as digital payments become more common.”
UK Finance, which represents the banks, said its members worked around the clock to minimise disruption when things went wrong.
A spokesperson said: “Operational resilience is crucial in a modern financial system and is a key priority for the industry. Members continue to invest billions to ensure systems, human and digital, are robust and secure. We will continue to work closely with regulators, government and industry to protect the UK’s financial system, institutions and customers.”
Which?’s latest findings, along with incidents such as last year’s Europe-wide Visa payments outage, suggest that Britain’s financial system has a long way to go before it will be resilient enough to support a cashless society.
Previous Which? research has shown that ATMs vanished at a rate of 488 per month in the second half of last year, while more than 3,300 bank branches have closed since 2015.
Which? is calling for the government to appoint a regulator with sole responsibility for the cash infrastructure, to ensure consumers and businesses can continue to access cash for as long as is necessary.