Should banks pay up when they mess up?
A couple of days ago, HSBC customers were fuming when a technical glitch meant many were unable to use their debit cards or withdraw cash from ATMs. But should HSBC have to pay them compensation?
According to the bank, a ‘hardware problem’ left a ‘small minority’ of HSBC customers unable to carry out any transactions. The blackout lasted around four hours, and a quick trawl through Twitter highlights the chaos it caused.
Elspeth Hardie (@Eahardie) complained, ‘Thank you @hsbc_uk_press for NOT letting me access my OWN money and totally humiliating me in public! Don’t worry I just won’t eat tonight!’
BE Usergroup (@Beusergroup) said, ‘Thanks for that guys. It is great going to collect take away and then be unable to “take it away” due to inability to pay!’
It’s cheap to say ‘I’m sorry’
But is bashing HSBC for a technical error making a mountain out of a molehill?
To their credit, our banks’ complex IT infrastructure usually works seamlessly, allowing us to carry out our banking needs without a hitch.
HSBC also took quickly to social networks to say that it was ‘very sorry’ for the inconvenience. But this act of attrition was missing one thing: a commitment to compensate anyone who found themselves out of pocket as a result of the bank’s failure.
For example, if you had to find an alternative means of paying for something on Sunday, you could well have spent more money than you were planning to. If you had to turn to a credit card, you may have incurred some interest charges. Or if you resorted to taking cash out with a credit card, you’d have to pay interest and an additional withdrawal fee.
And what about costs that don’t come with a receipt for evidence? For example, if someone drove out to a restaurant to pay for your meal because your card didn’t work?
Quick to take, slow to give
Banks are pretty quick to charge us when we make an error. I dealt with one Which? member last month who had to pay his bank £30 simply to write to another customer he’d mistakenly sent money to. Not to mention the extortionate fees you have to pay if you exceed your overdraft limit, even by a small amount. So shouldn’t it go both ways?
Were you affected by the blackout on Sunday? Are you out of pocket as a result? And should HSBC be encouraged to compensate its customers who were negatively affected?
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