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Delays for BofA customers online

Users of Bank of America's online banking service may be experiencing a delay in accessing their accounts, the firm's site says.

Users of Bank of America's online banking service may be experiencing a delay in accessing their accounts, according to a message posted on the banking giant's Web site today.

It is another reminder of the pitfalls of e-commerce. Online banking is a growing e-commerce market.

"On Sunday, we made some enhancements to online banking," said a "special announcement" posted on the company's Web site as of 9 a.m. PT today. "This has caused higher than expected usage of the service. As a result, you may experience a delay in accessing your accounts or reaching customer service."

It went on to say: "We are aware that the response time may be very slow. We are working around the clock to fix the problem, so that we can expand capacity to improve response time."

A similar announcement was reposted at 4 p.m.

Customers have complained to CNET News.com that they have been unable to access their accounts online.

"I can't understand why their IS or networking department didn't foresee the possibility of this access problem," one customer complained. Added another: "I did call their service number, during which time I played two games of cribbage online at Yahoo games. After 30 minutes, I hung up."

Fewer than 5,000 customers likely were affected by the problem, according to Cathy Graeber, senior vice president of marketing with BofA's interactive banking unit. As part of the upgrade, customers were asked to fill out a profile so they could access their savings, checking, and credit card accounts using a single user name and profile. But the bank underestimated how long it would take for users to complete the form and continue with their online banking transactions.

As a result, a bottleneck occurred, according to Graeber. The company has been adding more capacity to combat the problem, she added, and will continue to monitor the situation this week.

BofA launched home banking in June 1996.

Last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released a report on PC banking. "Risks range from the possibility of unauthorized intrusions and data alteration to system failures and computer viruses," the agency said, according to Reuters.

Graeber said BofA's problem was not security related. She also pointed out that users could access their accounts through America Online and a proprietary dial-up network, as well as by phone and ATM.