UPDATED: All systems were far from “go” at Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, on Thursday. For the second time in a week, DNB had to admit that its online banking was not functioning, nor was its new much-hyped mobile payment system called Vipps, and they weren’t up and running again until late in the afternoon. DNB’s frustrated customers couldn’t use their DNB bank cards to pay for goods and services online, either, and state regulators are now demanding an explanation.
At one point even DNB’s website, dnb.no, was down, but it was back up at midday. Information on it about the systems failure was minimal, though, and hard to find: “Vipps isn’t working right now,” read the sole announcement on DNB’s Vipps page. “An error occurred during the night that is affecting payment services at DNB. Our best people are on the job and working to solve the problem.”
Another short statement on its online banking page merely stated that “We are experiencing challenges with our services.” DNB wrote on its Facebook page, however, that “a problem arose during the night” with the bank’s storage systems, and that led to the failure of a series of the bank’s online services including, among others, its online banking and several payment systems.
“All available resources” were working to solve the problems, DNB claimed, “but we must expect that it can take some time before the systems are up again.”
New torrent of customer complaints
That set off hundreds of complaints from customers who already have faced branch closures, higher fees and several other systems failures at DNB in recent years. DNB is also now charging customers to withdraw money from its own minibanks (automated teller machines, ATMs), and that’s been unpopular with customers as well. A DNB spokesman who apologized for the system failures on NRK’s nightly nationwide newscast Dagsrevyen Thursday indicated there were no plans to refund the controversial fees despite the need to appease unhappy customers.
DNB’s reputation was so tarnished last year, also over other issues, that the bank’s board of directors shaved more than NOK 300,000 off the annual bonus of DNB’s chief executive, Rune Bjerke. Several customers wrote comments back to DNB that they were likely to switch banks, after complaining of “repeated breakdowns” in service.
Service wasn’t restored until around 4:30pm and some customers reported that it remained unstable. It was the fourth time so far this month that DNB’s online banking has been down, and authorities at the state agency Finanstilsynet are not pleased.
“We are very concerned about the situation, both regarding this last breakdown and the pattern of breakdowns over time,” Emil Steffensen, director of bank- and insurance regulation, told NRK. The regulatory agency has now demanded a written account of the problems from DNB, while also having ongoing “dialogue” and meetings with DNB officials to chart reasons for the trouble and make sure necessary steps are being taken to resolve it.
‘Must have a Plan B and a Plan C’
The ongoing trouble at DNB also sparked a reaction from IKT-Norge, which serves as the industry association within information technology in Norway. It criticized DNB’s failure to have “better security solutions for its users,” calling online banking a “critical part of the public infrastructure” that demands stability.
“We don’t know the reason as to why DNB’s systems are down, but DNB has been subject to this earlier and all told, quite a lot,” a spokeswoman for IKT-Norge told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The irony is that DNB has all but been forcing its customers over to online banking and other digital services that are far less costly for DNB to provide than more traditional payment methods and banking services through branches. “It’s important that when DNB defines itself as a digital company, we all must be able to depend on the services they deliver being accessible. Then it must be possible for DNB to have a “Plan B” and a “Plan C” when things go wrong, so that users aren’t affected.”
The Vipps failure also affects several smaller banks in Norway that also use it through a new partnership deal with DNB. It remained unclear what caused the alleged problem with DNB’s storage systems, during a week that has seen major hacking attacks worldwide.