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Site outages hit E*Trade, financial services unit

Customers of the online broker had sporadic access to their accounts this morning, preventing some users from making online trades for about 30 minutes.

E*Trade customers had sporadic access to their accounts this morning, preventing some customers from making online trades for about 30 minutes, the company confirmed.

E*Trade's Web site began to stall about 9 a.m. PST because of a telecommunications problem, according to E*Trade spokeswoman Heather Fondo. The glitch caused long delays for some customers and prevented others from accessing the site, she said.

E*Trade customers, however, were still able to make trades over the telephone, she said.

"At no time did our computer system go down," Fondo said. "It was a telephone network problem that was out of our hands."

In addition, ClearStation, the Web-based financial community site owned by E*Trade, suffered an outage this weekend when technicians attempted to upgrade its computer system, according to a message posted on the site. The message reads further: "We are working around the clock to ensure that the site is up and available by market open on Tuesday, Jan. 25."

E*Trade's brief struggle this morning follows a rash of site outages and delays over the last year. Site delays or outages at online brokerages can often mean lost trades for customers, a serious problem for the growth and success of these firms.

Last July, E*Trade's site was down for several hours. After the outage, an E*Trade customer went so far as to file a lawsuit against the company, claiming the delay in service caused him to miss making an important trade.

ClearStation, which offers technical and fundamental stock analysis tools, was closed over the weekend to make upgrades when "issues with the system" were discovered, according to Patrick Di Chiro, E*Trade's vice president of corporate communications. "This resulted in a temporary interruption of services," he said.

ClearStation was acquired by E*Trade last March.