I’ve been locked out of my bank account by Barclays

Published by Simon Read on 11 May 2017.
Last updated on 11 May 2017

Fight for your rights

If you have trouble getting into your bank account, it’s quite likely to be because there’s been yet another computer cock-up. It has become a regular occurrence for banks’ online systems to collapse, leaving customers unable to get at their money or transfer cash.

For instance, in February, a Barclays computer crash left people across the country having bank cards declined in shops and restaurants while some branches were forced to shut early.

Then, in April, millions of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest customers as well as those of Lloyds Bank had difficulty accessing accounts or transferring money after both major banking groups suffered IT meltdowns.

 

In both cases, the banks claimed to have resolved issues within a day or two. But it wasn’t the first instance – back in 2012, RBS had serious problems with a software upgrade, which hit customers for weeks. The regulators took a dim view of the bank and, after a long investigation, fined it a massive £56 million in 2014.

And rightly so. If there’s a problem at the bank, it can be distressing and costly for customers affected. If you can’t get at your cash, that may mean not being able to pay essential bills which can lead to all sorts of problems.

When major disruption hit NatWest and RBS customers in 2012, some were unable to complete property purchases or did not receive their wages while others were stranded abroad.

The City watchdog has made it clear that banks must treat customers fairly, which means sorting things out as quickly as possible and putting right any losses people occur because of banks’ computer glitches. But I don’t reckon they’re doing that.

Reader MB of Peterborough contacted us after more than a month of being unable to access his bank account.

He wrote: “About five weeks ago, I tried to log in on my mobile app for Barclays Bank. I could not log in as I was told it was blocked. I then tried to log in on my PC to online banking. Again, my account was blocked.”

Worried, he called the bank and visited branches only to eventually be told that his current account had been suspended, but he was given no reason why.

 

The bank’s customer relations department simply told him it was looking into the situation. The only consolation was that direct debits and standing orders were still being paid from the account.

“Barclays has never contacted me in any way to tell me what the problem is and I feel totally in the dark,” he says. We contacted Barclays, which told us that MB’s account was mistakenly frozen due to an operational error. In other words, the bank had made a massive mistake.

The bank claimed: “It is extremely unusual for us to experience an operational issue of this kind, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

 

MB responded: “It seems very strange that Barclays gave you an explanation, but not me. I find its customer service absolutely awful. But I hope my experience will help someone else who faces this problem.”

In the meantime, MB turned to the Financial Ombudsman and eventually agreed a compensation payout of £250.

Frankly, I find that amount a little low after Barclays had left MB without access to his bank for weeks and failed to keep him informed. The lesson for all banks is that they should act quickly and tell customers what’s going on.

OUTCOME: £250 compensation for loss of banking service

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