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Chase's online bank service outage continues

Chase's online banking service was still having problems for much of Wednesday, extending an outage that has lasted for two days and affected millions of customers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Chase's online banking service was still having problems for much of Wednesday, extending an outage that has lasted for two days and affected millions of customers.

In the longest outage the bank has experienced, Chase's online service went down around 8 p.m. EST Monday and was down all day Tuesday. Its service for mobile phones was also down, but Chase's network of ATMs and telephone banking services were functioning normally.

Chase, which is the second-largest U.S. bank, said the problem had been fixed early Wednesday. However, people who tried to log in could not get into the site and Chase acknowledged that problems were persisting.

The outage was bad news for Michael Carney, who runs MWC Accounting, a small business in Chicago. Carney uses Chase to conduct all his personal and business banking needs, including payments from clients. He has a checking and savings account and three credit cards with the bank.

"I do all my payments online and not to have access to my account to pay simple things, or check my account disrupts everything," said Carney.

Carney is among an increasing number of people who prefer to do their banking online. According to research and advisory firm Gartner, about 50 percent of Americans primarily bank online, compared to just 25 percent five years ago.

"For many Americans, online banking is not an alternative channel, rather a channel of first choice and such an outage affects their rhythm around how they run their financial life," says Stessa Cohen, research director at Gartner.

Chase has 16.5 million customers who bank online. Many of them resorted to airing their frustrations on the online social network Twitter, and some wondered what would happen to penalties for late fees resulting from the outage. Chase spokesman Thomas Kelly said the bank would work with customers who missed deadlines on bill payments and promised to pay any related fees. He wouldn't venture to guess how much the bank would likely end up paying in such fees.

Gartner's Cohen said this was the longest outage that she had seen for a bank of this size. She was also surprised that the bank didn't provide a guide on its site telling customers on what to do.

Customers who had logged in on Tuesday and early Wednesday were greeted with a message saying: "Our website is temporarily unavailable." They were not directed to the telephone banking system, the ATMs or its branches, all of which were working.

For small business owner Carney the lack of communication was the most infuriating part. "It's even more frustrating that Chase isn't telling me what's going on," he says.

Many corporations have accounts on social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook, where they announce important developments and give guidance to their customers. However Chase doesn't have active accounts in either place, leaving their online customers in the dark.

The lack of explanation and the length of the outage didn't please Jacob Jegher, senior analyst at Celent, a Boston-based financial research and consulting firm. "There is an outpouring of customer frustration online and Chase has been quiet, which certainly isn't good for their reputation," said Jegher.

Chase's Kelly wouldn't comment on the bank's lack of presence on social networking sites or their lack of communication with customers online.