Mobile banking lets shoppers down

24 November 2023

• Black Friday is one of the worst times for online banking to go down.
• Pity the British, as a major bank’s online app stops working as sales open.
• Almost all banking functions are done by app these days.

Black Friday is one American trend that the British are happy to get in on, but this year banking failures have made it that much harder.

Downdetector, which tracks websites, showed more than 4,100 people had reported the banking app on their device wasn’t functioning; thousands of UK HSBC customers can’t access their mobile banking accounts.

HSBC said it was “investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

It’s never convenient for mobile banking to go down – either for customers nor banks – but Black Friday is one of the worst possible times for the inevitable to happen. Some customers of First Direct, a division of HSBC UK, have also reported they’re affected. Others say they are still able to use the app.

HSBC has around 14.8 million customers across the UK, although it isn’t known how many of them use mobile banking. Indicating that it’s a large proportion though, the firm announced previously that it would close 114 branches in the UK in 2023 due to an increase in customers using online banking first and foremost.

Black Friday banking failures.

Oh, the irony…

Theoretically, anyone needing to move money around could go to online banking proper via browser. However, many have pointed out that to access online banking they need a code displayed on the app.

Frustrated customers are also unable to verify online purchases, which often requires in-app verification. Black Friday bargains are disappearing before their very eyes.

Others complained on X that they can’t settle payday bills: “I got paid today and cannot pay any bills! Sort it out, HSBC.”

The bank was slow to update its service status page, causing more customer angst, but the site now shows a banner stating that “some customers are currently experiencing issues logging on to online banking. We are working hard to fix this.”

Black Friday banking woes exacerbated by bromides.

The message on HSBC’s website.

Both mobile and online banking are experiencing log on issues, according to the site, but have no planned maintenance.

“It’s the lack of communication from the start of the issue that’s most worrying. You haven’t even updated your own service website. I’ll definitely be moving some of my funds due to the poor communication,” wrote one customer.

Marius Acsinte, 34, told the BBC his HSBC account was unavailable, causing him several problems.

“I’m not able to open the app to pay my rent due today. I informed my landlord already, but I’m not able to use my debit card to make payments. That’s very frustrating.”

He further expressed that HSBC’s communication had been a letdown: “I was expecting the bank would send a message or an email explaining why, but instead I had to find out online.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Friday tonight or not, I’m not able to use my money and nobody informed me about why that’s happening.”

Reports of the outage were first made at 07:00 GMT today, according to downdetector, and by 08:00, thousands of reports had been made. It’s not entirely clear how many people have been affected, because the failure only becomes apparent if customers have a reason to check their mobile banking app.

The news may also worry retail workers, who will face extra shoppers as those unable to make online purchases descend on shopping centers across the UK. For customers who need to move money from different accounts, the Black Friday discounts are useless.