Facepalm: Yesterday, ATMs owned by the Bank of Ireland began processing withdrawals without debiting customer accounts. Word quickly spread, prompting customers to line up at the failing machines to dip into the free piggybank. The mad rush caused law enforcement officials to deploy police presence to ATMs nationwide, but made no arrests.
On Wednesday, the Bank of Ireland stated that an "IT glitch" caused a malfunction that has since been remediated. However, that was well after a quasi-bank run in which some customers withdrew more money than they had in their accounts.
Typically, ATM debits are limited to €500. However, The Irish Times notes that the cash machines allowed customers to transfer as much as 1,000 euros from the Bank of Ireland into their Revolut accounts – an online bank similar to PayPal. These transfers were permitted even if they exceeded the customer's balance. They could then use their Revolut cards to withdraw the funds from the same machine.
Late Tuesday night, the bank warned customers that all withdrawals, even those over limits, would be deducted from their account balances when the glitch got sorted out.
We would like to remind customers if transferring/withdrawing funds-including over normal limits-this money will be debited from their account.We are conscious customers may not be able to check balances,but should not withdraw/transfer if they are likely to become overdrawn– Bank of Ireland (@talktoBOI) August 15, 2023
"We would like to remind customers if transferring/withdrawing funds – including over normal limits – this money will be debited from their account," the bank tweeted. "We are conscious customers may not be able to check balances, but should not withdraw/transfer if they are likely to become overdrawn."
The bank claims transactions during the glitch did not exceed average daily business levels.
"[The] volume of transactions conducted last night wouldn't be a significant proportion of our overall transactions volumes through an average day," a Bank of Ireland spokesperson told The Irish Times.
However, Garda (Irish police) told the BBC that they received calls to several ATMs throughout Ireland regarding an "unusual volume of activity." Officers were deployed to maintain "public safety" and "order" as people formed long lines at the malfunctioning machines. Garda withheld the name of the "financial institution," but it is readily apparent which bank was having issues. Nobody was arrested since the problem was an internal accounting error, and customers appeared to be conducting normal transactions.
The Bank of Ireland and Garda did not mention if criminal charges would be filed against those who intentionally exceeded their limits. However, the bank did say that debits against accounts would go through starting today and that overdrawn balances would be subject to the usual credit rating penalties.
That said, Bank of Ireland customers who took advantage of the situation are not the only ones potentially facing hot water. Minister of Finance Michael McGrath said on Wednesday that he requested the Central Bank to investigate the incident and report to him how the IT problem occurred. The bank has apologized for the "outage," but it's unclear what penalties it might face if the issue arose from negligence.