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BBC reveals high frequency of UK banking outages from data mandated by the FCA

BBC analysis of IT outages at UK banks, evident in data mandated by the Financial Conduct Authority since August 2018, reveals them to occur at least once a month at each current account provider

Analysis behind a report by the BBC of data published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reveals, for the first time, the high frequency of IT-related shutdowns at UK banks.

The BBC’s analysis of the data underlying service quality surveys required by the Competition and Markets Authority and the FCA, and accessible by way of an Open Data API Dashboard provided by Open Banking, indicates “that most major high street banks suffered more than 10 shutdowns between April and December [2018]”.

Banks have been reporting information to the FCA about current account services, by way of website links and application programming interfaces (APIs) since August 2018.

This was mandated by the FCA, and banks have been supplying information about their current account services on a voluntary basis. Since August, current account providers have been required to report how often they have to report major operational and security incidents, on a quarterly basis.

From 15 February this year, the FCA has also required providers to publish information quarterly on how long it takes to open a current account, and how long it takes to replace a debit card.

An FCA consultation document published in July 2017 said that customers looking to compare different personal and business current accounts would benefit from information on the quality of service provided by banks, but found there was little consistency in how providers made this information accessible.

“They [customers] were particularly interested in the frequency of major unplanned service outages,” the document stated.

“They considered that frequent, unplanned interruptions may be a sign of poor investment in the resilience of systems and security. Not being able to access services for a period of one hour or more would cause them significant inconvenience.”

The FCA required that banks must publish the total number of major incidents suffered by their online, telephone and mobile banking services over a year.

Barclays has emerged as having the highest number of incidents, with 41 over the nine months up to the end of 2018, according to the BBC, which quoted a spokesman for the bank, who said: “We take IT resilience extremely seriously and we welcome transparency for our customers, which is why we report every incident to the regulator, even minor glitches that have minimal impact on customers.”

A spokesperson for the FCA told Computer Weekly: “We introduced rules last year that made firms publish IT outages on their own websites, but this was the first time [the analysis] was published [on the BBC]”.

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