Computer Systems can be Relied on to . . .

The TD Canada Trust bank has just announced a reimbursement plan for business account holders overcharged between 1994 and 2013.  That’s $10 per month per business bank account for almost 20 years, a tidy sum!

Image by mrpuen http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Other_Science_and_Te_g342-Pcb_Green_Circuit_Board_p115187.html
Image by mrpuen – freedigitalphotos.net

Service charges are a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean that they are correctly calculated.  You would think that a large company would get such a simple thing as a service charge correct, but think again.  There are several common sources of error:

1. Complicated Legislation – a now deceased colleague used to regularly recalculate the interest charges assessed to his clients by the Canada Revenue Agency because they were often too high.

2. Changing Marketplace – cell phone plans change quickly as the companies match each others’ promotions.  Unfortunately, the administrative systems often don’t keep up with marketing.

3. New Uses for Old Systems – As requirements change, existing systems are called upon to do things they were not designed to do.

4. Human Error – When I renewed a mortgage at the bank, the person serving me did not understand the product he was representing.  It appeared to me that he was relying on the system’s edits to ensure the accuracy of the transaction.  It is impossible to predict every possible error.  The more complex the system, the more the person using it needs to understand the transaction.

5. Too Big To Succeed – Large systems are anything but nimble.  Some are too expensive to respond to “small” changes (like a change in service fees).

As far as I am concerned, the only thing you can rely on computer systems to do is fail.  It is impossible to build a perfect system, so we need to be prepared for errors, and act appropriately, as TD Canada Trust has done by offering reimbursement to its business customers.

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