Online traders cry foul as they get shut out of rally

Web stock-trading accounts are freezing up or slowing down, preventing online traders from taking advantage of an end-of-week market rally buoyed by Wall Street optimism.

Updated 1:25 p.m. PT with Scottrade comment; and 1 p.m. to correct that Dow rose 400 points, not percent.

The U.S. stock markets surged again on Friday, buoyed by Wall Street optimism over the government's move to help the markets.

The Dow rose more than 400 points at one point on Friday, while Standard & Poor's was up nearly 5 percent on news that the Federal Reserve plans to scrutinize banks' balance sheets and guarantee money market mutual funds, as well as reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has prohibited short sales of financial companies.

But not everyone was celebrating. Online traders who were shut out of accounts or experienced trade delays as a result of all the market action were not happy.

"Ameritrade has lost my confidence and cost me MONEY. The prices spiked on several securities in my account, but do you think I could log in and sell?????? By the time I got on, the prices had all retreated," a trader wrote in a message on a Yahoo Finance message board. "10 years ago, I could understand, but today? Please. I need a stable platform that I can RELY on, not something that may or not be available at the whim of the Ameritrade."

Ameritrade received the harshest criticism, with people reporting that they were locked out of accounts, with some saying they had problems at Scottrade and Zecco as well.

"ALL brokers had the same problem, with many worse than E*Trade. AMTD was kicking people out and couldn't get back in--at least that is what I heard. How would you like that?" a Yahoo Finance message board member wrote. "My understanding is that the clearinghouse for the brokers was overloaded, and that backed up into the online brokers."

One trader said he couldn't log onto the Scottrade site for a while, and when he did log in, the site was slow and then rejected an order he placed with an "administrative error."

"I am furious as well," the trader writes on the Yahoo forum. "Just as upsetting as the failed platform, their help desk personnel denied they were having a problem. Hard to believe, since I was on hold for 10 minutes, waiting to talk to someone, and you get confirmation here others were having problems. What a crock of BULL @#$%. Yea, I was hoping to make some money today, but none of my trade actions are moving. It was a nice thought. At least I made SOME money this week. Something tells me this volatile action will continue on Monday, due to all the backup retail orders."

Another trader wrote that he had been frozen out of his Ameritrade accounts four times this week and that the toll-free number was busy.

One poster seemed to sum up the anger well with this comment: "Have been locked out for 20 minutes AGAIN today. I received a call from a supervisor. Her comment was 'we received your call yesterday and are researching the issue.' Fix your damn site. Class action anyone?"

A Scottrade spokeswoman provided this statement via e-mail: "This week has brought some of the highest trading volume ever for Scottrade. Our trading sites have remained up and running throughout the week. While some customers did experience some slowness, they were able to place trades online or through our branch offices. We sympathize with those who have experienced issues and have been working hard to alleviate them."

Representatives from TD Ameritrade did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

 

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