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31 January outages: Returns are in, Britain goes out

January 31st was a turbulent day in the office for the UK as the deadline for returns and Brexit D-day collided with a huge power outage across a variety of banks, internet services and apps.

4th Feb 2020
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Lightening over London Bridge.

What could possibly go wrong on Brexit/tax return deadline day?

Described as ‘freaky Friday’ by The Register, Friday 31 January was not a good day for online services and interconnectivity. On the UK’s double D-day, Downdetector had a field day reporting a whole host of outages, ranging from banking services to internet providers.

It is certainly coincidental that a considerable number of services go down on the same day that Britain officially leaves the EU and its residents have their beloved self assessment deadline, to say the least. However, apart from Tide and Nationwide, most of the affected services have avoided admitting to having any issues, as many status report pages show no sign of services going down.

Connection? Don’t bank on it

Business bank Tide unexpectedly experienced an outage on D-day, meaning users were unable to access their accounts. Although Tide suffered the worst issue, being the only service to completely go down for the entire day, it responded proactively with an announcement on the site, updating users on its official status:

“Shortly after 10am on 31 January we were alerted to a problem with our credit service. The issue then spread to other parts of the mobile and web app; resulting in login for our members becoming inaccessible. Our tech team addressed the issues in line with our standard process, but in this instance, the problem could not be resolved. We were able to restore occasional access but the full user experience was not to our standards. 

Our team investigated the potential causes and discovered a 30% increase in customer traffic to the Tide app. We understand this was likely due to the end of the month demands such as payroll runs and the deadline for submitting tax returns.”

Unfortunately, this was not enough to make up for the fact the service was made redundant for users on their most frantic of days as users were left with the following access levels:


Nationwide’s twitter feed was working overtime on 31 January as it responded to its payments services going down. Users logging into online apps could see the confirmation from Nationwide: "All incoming and outgoing payments are in a queue and will be sent ASAP. We know this is frustrating and are working to get things back to normal." 

Nationwide’s service status page confirmed: "You can make payments to and from your account but please be aware there are delays with these being processed. Our teams are still working through this and we'll keep you updated as we know more." Nationwide apologised several times via its feed, saying “We’re very sorry” for the delay to payments, which was fixed in the early hours of 1 February when all the payments had been processed. 

In addition to Tide and Nationwide, over 100 Natwest users reported being unable to access Natwest’s online banking app at 10:52. 

Internet connectivity outages

For BT, outages reached their peak at 16:09 when 2023 users reported issues via Downdetector.

Status overview of BT issues on 31 January from Downdetector

At 15:50 on Friday, 2154 users of the broadband provider Gamma reported issues with its internet and phone connectivity.

UK Sky and Three users also reported issues on Brexit-returns day. Around Sky 200 users reported issues with internet connectivity around midday, which was matched by Three users between 22:00 and 23:00 that evening when another 200 reported data connectivity issues.

Desktop applications

Office, Outlook and Google also feature in Downdetector’s 31 January report as having issues, peaking at around 15:00, 17:00 and 21:00 respectively.

If you were affected on 31 January by any outages, or if you were given any explanation from your provider as to why any outages occurred, please leave a comment in the discussion section below.

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By flightdeck
06th Feb 2020 11:40

They may have all shared a piece of line or an exchange that went down and they either didn't pay to have a secondary line or the secondary line wasn't quite as independent as it could have been or that line had a coincidental but independent failure or maybe they all have some kit somewhere in the same data center etc etc. There are a of potential points of failure.

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