Deluge delays online traders

While shares across the board took a beating yesterday, online traders and financial information sites faced their busiest trading day ever.

Many sites, including Commonwealth Securities, the Commonwealth Bank's share trading arm; E*Trade Australia Securities; Fairfax's Trading Room; Quicken.com.au's trading site, Quick.Broker; and OzEmail Stockwatch experienced delays due to increases in volume.

ComSec, with around 45 per cent market share in the online trading sector, appeared to be worst hit by the frenzy, with some members experiencing login difficulties as well as access problems. Many customers were unable to access their personal portfolios, known as watchlists, and others were forced to trade via phone. Delays were also being experienced by customers phoning the customer service line.

Customer service officers from ComSec admitted to the delays and helped customers trade, but IDG understands the standard minimum telephone brokering fee of $50 still applied.

Officials from the online trader were not available for comment, and an estimated time for the service to resume to normal was unknown. ComSec is believed to have more than 500,000 members, while the number of internet subscribers was unobtainable.

Rival online trader E*Trade also experienced delays, but according to John Bowden, E*Trade client representative, customers were still able to trade online and gain information. He said traffic to E*Trade was around 50 per cent higher than previous trading days. E*Trade claims to have around 30 per cent of the online market and currently has around 52,000 subscribers.

While few customer complaints had been received, Bowden said the website had been "a bit slower". "Because the net has been a bit slow, customers are getting quotes over the phone," he said. "There's no dramas . . . people are waiting on the line for only three seconds."

Fairfax's online share information service, Trading Room, was also experiencing difficulties. "We have obviously been affected by it," a customer service operator said. An abnormal volume of traffic was leading to intermittent delays of information from the website, she said.

While Quicken.com.au's corporate communications manager, Catherine Drewe, was unable to comment on the performance of Quick.Broker, she said Quicken's financial information service, MarketMonitor, had experienced increased traffic.

"Compared with Monday last week, as of 1:00pm (yesterday), page impressions (to MarketMonitor) had reached 87 per cent of the total (for the previous Monday)," she said.

Exact details on how the site held up throughout the day will be clearer today, she said.

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