Bank of Ireland app fails to show balance in real time

Your consumer queries answered: ‘I discovered I was €455.87 overdrawn’

The Bank of Ireland: dozens and dozens of the bank’s customers are complaining of the lag between transactions happening and their balances updating. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris/Bloomberg

The Bank of Ireland: dozens and dozens of the bank’s customers are complaining of the lag between transactions happening and their balances updating. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris/Bloomberg

 

It’s amazing how some queries and complaints can gather momentum. Last week we highlighted a story on the Ray D’Arcy Show from a woman called Emma and what happened next makes it worth repeating. “I’m actually shaking with anger after dealing with my bank this morning,” the mail from Emma started. “I checked my balance on my Bank of Ireland 365 app this morning and, to my horror, discovered I was €455.87 overdrawn.”

She had checked her account 24 hours earlier and everything was grand. She called the bank and spent 40 minutes on the phone only to be effectively told that she should be managing her account and any problems were her own fault. “I keep a close eye on my spending and the only tool available is the Banking 365 app, which I use to check my balance to make sure I have the funds to spend.”

Real time

She assumed the balance shown on the app was correct. It wasn’t. It emerged that the bank was not updating her balance in real time or anything like it. So she had spent money she assumed she had and then the bank deducted a whole chunk of money at the same time catapulting her into authorised overdraft territory for which she was penalised to the tune of €80.

She said she was told by the bank that contactless transactions don’t update for up to four working days or, in her case, a week because of the Easter break. When she lodged a formal complaint and asked for her fees to be returned, she was told this was not possible and was part of its T&Cs.

I contacted the bank and revived this statement.

“When customers use their debit cards, transactions are normally reflected on their account and their available funds adjust immediately. This did not happen in this instance. We are currently investigating what went wrong.

“We deeply regret that we did not address [Emma’s] complaint effectively. Taking a customer-focused approach is one of our key values and we failed on that in this instance. We will be contacting [Emma] directly to express our regret.”

Pricewatch thought the statement curious. Because, as it happens, Pricewatch has a Bank of Ireland account and we have had cause to raise an eyebrow at the sometimes massive time lag between transactions happening and money leaving the account.

Money spent on December 22nd and 23rd was not deducted until December 29th for instance, while money taken from an ATM on Friday, March 16th, was not deducted until the following Tuesday.

So we went back to Bank of Ireland and asked if they were sure the statement was true. We were told they had “triple checked with the team and that is the case”.

So maybe it was just Pricewatch and a listener to the Ray D’Arcy Show who had had problems?

Similar experiences

Just to be sure we took to Twitter to see if other people had had a similar experience to ours. “This tweet is for Bank of Ireland customers,” we wrote. “Have you ever noticed a lag between using your debit card and your balance being updated?”

We got dozens and dozens of responses from the bank’s customers all complaining of the lag between transactions happening and their balances updating. The experiences of all these Bank of Ireland customers ran completely contrary to what the bank had told us when it said: “When customers use their debit cards, transactions are normally reflected on their account and their available funds adjust immediately.”

So we contacted the bank again. This time we received what we think is a very different response.

“In relation to [Emma’s query], transactions should have reflected on to her account balance immediately. This did not happen and we are examining the issue and refunding fees. We are also investigating your feedback that other customers have reported delays with their balances updating.

“Normally when customers use their debit cards, transactions should reflect on their account and their available funds should adjust immediately. National holidays (bank holidays, Christmas and Easter) can result in a delay in transactions being received by the bank to process and balances won’t update immediately in this instance.

“In relation to contactless payments, when a customer uses a debit card to make a purchase and a merchant (retailer) processes the transaction in real time, the available funds will adjust immediately. However, where a merchant doesn’t process a contactless transaction in real time, the bank cannot deduct it from the customer’s available funds until the merchant has reported the transaction complete. Currently 80 per cent of merchants are reporting back in real time and this is expected to reach 100 per cent by year end which will mean that contactless payments should update in real time.”