‘I left Smile Bank today due to the ongoing outage’
Smile Bank customers have not been able to access their online bank accounts for five consecutive days.
The online only bank, owned by Co-Operative Bank, said it was working urgently to resolve the problem.
But the latest service outage turned out to be “the last straw” for longtime customer Emma Hopkinson-Spark.
After 16 years, she left Smile Bank on Friday after she was unable to view a crucial reinsurance payment.
“I’m really disappointed with Smile Bank,” Hopkinson-Spark, head of staff at a technology consultancy firm in Weston-super-Mare, told BBC. “This week’s outages were the turning point.”
Hopkinson-Spark has claimed that he has not been able to access his online bank account for several days. Although he can still withdraw money from ATMs and pay for items using his debit card, he cannot send payments or view his payments.
“Yesterday my husband phoned me saying he was trying to pay for the groceries and he had no money in his account,” she said. “He needed me to transfer money to his account and I couldn’t.”
Her frustration peaked when her mortgage company claimed to have sent a payment of nearly £ 100,000 to her checking account, but she couldn’t see it there or do anything with the funds.
He has decided to close his bank account, ISA cash and savings account with the bank and is transferring his funds to another bank.
Smile Bank, which has around 100,000 customers, apologized for the problems with its online and mobile banking app, but was unable to provide the BBC with a reason for the interruption or say when the problem would be resolved.
“We are sorry that our Smile customers have not been able to use our mobile app and online banking as they would normally do in the past few days,” the company said in a statement.
“We are working hard to restore their access as soon as possible and apologize for any inconvenience caused.
“Customers can use their cards and make transactions normally and if they need support with their account they can call our customer service.”
“We are really scared”
Vicky Wevell, a self-employed publisher from Nailsea, near Bristol, who has been with the bank for 20 years, said the Smile Bank mobile app has gone downhill in recent years, with outages for hours at a time.
Like other Smile Bank clients who spoke to the BBC, she said that the lack of communication during recent numbers had worried her about the safety of her funds.
“Actually I’m really angry and this week I’ve become progressively angrier,” he said. “It has less to do with the interruption and more to do with their communication.”
He said he was also on the verge of changing banks because he could not see which bills for the work he had been paying for his clients.
“How can we do business?” she said. “[We’re] panic, is our money safe? ”
Jackie Smart, an office administrator in Aylesbury, said it took days for the bank to place a notice on the interruption of its website and communication was difficult.
“I feel frustrated and worried because I don’t know what’s going on. You can access the automated service to listen to your balance when you ring, but it’s actually waiting to talk to someone who takes a long time,” she said.
Founded in 1999, Smile Bank was one of the first online-only banks. Its parent company, Cooperative Bank, is owned by several hedge funds, which were reportedly exploring a sale of the business last year.
The BBC understands that the interruption is caused by a problem that affects only the Smile Bank platforms, but not other brands owned by Co-Operative Bank.
Smile Bank customers were advised to call the bank if they need assistance with their accounts on 03457 212212 during opening hours, which are: Monday-Friday 08: 00-18: 00 BST and on weekends between 09: 00-17: 00 BST.
Since call waiting times may vary, the bank told the BBC that customers can also contact Smile Bank’s Twitter and Facebook accounts to query.