“This is unbelievably embarrassing,” said the head of information, Marja Lång.
The mistake was due to a computer error as the National Debt Office closed one of its savings accounts. Customers who were not moving to another type of account were to have their balances transferred to them last Friday. But 10,000 people received several transfers instead of one.
“We think we could have paid out between half a billion and a billion kronor too much,” said Marja Lång.
The problem has been blamed on a combination of the old computer system and the unusually large amount to be transferred. Many payments were sent two or three times and on Monday morning the National Debt Office was inundated with calls from bemused customers.
When the blunder was spotted the process was stopped and the organisation immediately sent out 10,000 letters apologising and politely asking for the money back – minus 50 kronor for the trouble caused.
A National Debt Savings account is similar to a bank account, with various options of interest rates at different fixed terms. According to Svenska Dagbladet, the customers affected by this week’s mistake deposited their savings ten years ago at a fixed interest rate of eight per cent.
Johan Lindberg, who is responsible for his in-laws’ savings, told Dagens Nyheter that in 1994 they paid 20,000 kronor each into the account and were due to receive a total of 90,000 kronor this week. Instead they were paid around 300,000 kronor.
“For me it’s not a problem,” said Lindberg. “But I can imagine that it’s a big concern for many pensioners who have got this letter with a request that they pay back the money within a week.”
“They should have routines in place to stop this kind of thing from happening,” he added.
The National Debt Office reported that a number of customers have been “very angry”, although the majority have been understanding. Marja Lång said she is confident that the billion kronor will be recovered.
“I think we’ll get it all back. The average age of our customers is relatively high and they are also kind. But naturally we can’t rule out legal action if people don’t pay it back,” said Marja Lång.
“We can’t just give away a billion kronor.”