What to do if the RBS mess has affected you

Think you may have suffered penalties or a tarnished credit score as a result of RBS's software failure? Merryn Somerset Webb explains what you should do.

It wasn't that long ago that we heard constant calls from various people for RBS to become a fully fledged arm of the state a sort of National Investment Bank dispensing loans to small- and medium-sized businesses, helping develop green sources of energy and investing in new and exciting technologies on behalf of taxpayers everywhere. So much for that.

This week we found out that it can't even manage its computer systems well enough to keep the retail side of the bank rolling over. Last Tuesday, a computer failure meant that customer balances stopped updating. So wages never appeared, transfers disappeared and chaos ensued: house moves and holidays ended up postponed and cancelled and one defendant is said to have had to spend an extra weekend in prison when his bail money vanished.

By this Tuesday (a week later!), the bank claimed to have updated the accounts of all but 1% of NatWest and RBS customers, although even RBS has said a "small number" of its customers will keep being hit by "unacceptable delays". Anyone with Ulster Bank will have to wait until at least next week to see a return to full service.

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So what do you do if you're caught up in this mess? First work out how you've been financially affected. Perhaps you've been charged for missing a payment on a card or for going overdrawn, which may have damaged your credit rating. These problems should be relatively easy to remedy.

RBS has promised that "no one will be out of pocket". So you should be able to get a refund (whether you are an RBS customer or not). You'll also be able to claim for extra expenses incurred as a result of being unable to get cash several customers have complained about missing flights due to being unable to get cash to pay taxis. Full details on how to claim will be revealed later this week.

Much the same goes for credit ratings missed payments can't be seen as your fault so you should be able to get them removed from your ratings by contacting the credit agencies (Experian, Equifax and Callcredit).

If you're short of cash as a result of all this, for now you can withdraw cash on your RBS/Natwest credit card, fee free with no interest for a month, and you can also call the bank to get emergency cash if you need to (0161-9319 959; 08457-777766; 0800-6569 639).

So far Moneysavingexpert.com reports RBS is being pretty lenient with interest-free overdrafts. Once your account is back in order you might move to a better bank. First Direct tops most of the customer surveys that I've seen.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.