Bank of America website woes enter 6th day

NEW YORK (AP) ? Bank of America customers have had trouble signing into their accounts for six days. Yet the bank still offered no reason Wednesday for the site’s slowness.

A message on its home page said most of the website was working normally, but customers may experience “occasional delays.”

A spokeswoman for Bank of America Corp., Tara Burke, says the company doesn’t disclose the causes for website problems and noted that online banking was now available. She declined to say how many customers may still be experiencing slowness signing in.

“Given the last few days, we are rigorously monitoring our online banking system and chose to continue deploying an alternate home page to ensure that customers get to the right destination quickly,” Burke said.

Bank of America Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., is the largest U.S. bank by deposits and has 29 million online customers.

The website delays mean customers who normally bank online may have had to head to a branch or ATM to access their accounts in recent days.

The bank’s customers also had difficulty accessing their accounts in January and March. In both those instances, the company said the problems resulted from routine system upgrades.

Shawn White, vice president of Keynote Systems Inc., which monitors the performance of company websites, said banks in recent years have invested heavily in promoting the convenience and safety of their online services.

But he said the length of Bank of America’s latest outage could seriously damage customer confidence in the company’s services.

White said that Keynote’s monitoring system detected slowness in Bank of America’s online service in 10 cities as recently as Wednesday afternoon.

When outages occur, companies need to keep customers updated, said Jacob Jegher, an online banking analyst with research firm Celent. That’s especially true for banks because of the sensitive nature of the information they’re handling, he said.

Even if the bank doesn’t give an explicit reason for the outage, Jegher said that companies’ participation in social media has led customers to expect a greater level of communication.

“We’re in an environment now where electronic banking is a mainstream channel,” he said. “Any extended outage is unacceptable ? particularly for a bank with this many customers.”

Bank of America said several times starting Friday that the website had been restored, but the bank changed its message Tuesday and now declines to say when it expects the site to be fully operational again.

The problems began a day after the company said it would start charging a $5 monthly debit card fee. That announcement Thursday was met with customer outrage; an online petition at asking the bank to reconsider the decision had more than 132,500 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

Several major banks have introduced new or higher fees for checking account customers in the past year. The industry says the changes are needed because of a new regulation that limits the fees they can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards.