New Help For Customers To Recover Payments Sent In Error

  • New industry procedures mean funds can be protected to help rightful owner

Customers who make a mistake when sending a mobile, online or phone banking payment are set to benefit from improved help to recover the funds, thanks to changes to industry procedures announced today (Tuesday 26 January 2016).

The new procedures strengthen measures introduced in May 2014 which standardised the timescales customers can expect for a bank or building society to investigate a report that a payment has been sent in error. The latest enhancements mean that where there is clear evidence of a genuine mistake, the receiving bank will prevent the money being mistakenly spent by the recipient of the payment.  

Although the improvements cannot guarantee a customer will get their money back, they mean that, for the first time, in straightforward cases where the recipient does not dispute the return of the funds, the money will be returned within 20 working days. 

To balance the rights of all customers, whether they have sent or received a payment, the receiving customer will be contacted by their bank and given the opportunity to dispute the return of the funds in all cases. Additional safeguards are also in place to ensure that where the circumstances of the claim are less clear cut, no funds are removed without the consent of the recipient.

What customers that have made an error can expect 

  • When you notify your bank or building society that you have made an electronic payment to the wrong account, your bank will commence action on your behalf within a maximum of two working days.
  • Where your bank finds clear evidence of a genuine mistake, they will contact the receiving bank on your behalf with a request to prevent the money being mistakenly spent. As long as the recipient does not dispute your claim, you will subsequently receive a refund of the protected funds within 20 working days from when you notified your bank.
  • In cases where the circumstances of the claim are not clear cut, your bank will still contact the receiving bank on your behalf. The recipient will be contacted by their bank to ask for consent to debit their account. No funds would be removed without the consent of the receiving customer.
  • If it is not possible to reclaim a payment you have sent in error – for instance if the recipient disputes its return – you will be notified of the outcome within 20 working days from the point of your enquiry and in many cases much sooner.
  • If funds cannot be recovered through the standard central process your bank will give you clear and accurate information on the options you have available – such as court action against the recipient.
  • The industry procedures do not change the legal rights and responsibilities of you, your bank or the recipient of the funds. Anyone that intentionally spends money that does not belong to them is committing a crime, which can be reported to the police. 
  • If you do not get the service you should expect under the new procedures you can firstly follow your provider’s formal complaints procedure. If you are not happy with the outcome, your bank will provide you with information on how you can take your complaint to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service.

The procedures apply to payments sent using Faster Payments (which processes virtually every mobile, online and telephone banking payment between banks or building societies) or Bacs Direct Credit (used to pay nearly 90% of the UK workforce, and a billion benefit payments, as well as pension payments, employee expenses, insurance settlements, dividends, refunds and supplier payments). 

The changes apply to all banks and building societies that connect directly to Faster Payments or Bacs Payment Schemes Limited from today, covering more than 95% of electronic payments made in the UK. Implementation is being rolled out across other indirectly connected banks and building societies during early 2016.

Craig Tillotson, Chief Executive of Faster Payments, said:

“Mobile, online and phone banking customers now send well over a billion payments every year. The most important advice is to make sure you get the sort code and account number correct when sending any payment but, if you do make a mistake, today’s announcement means more help is on offer, while also ensuring the recipient of funds is treated fairly too.”   

Michael Chambers, Chief Executive of Bacs, said:

“Bacs Direct Credit is the payment method of choice for the vast majority of UK employers, and is used as well to settle supplier invoices and to make other payments directly into bank accounts. While our system successfully processes more than two billion transactions into correct accounts every year, we welcome anything which provides added security and peace of mind. 

“It is inevitable that human error can sometimes creep in when lengthy account details are being input, and it is absolutely right that anyone who is out of pocket as a result of a mistake can get that money back.”

The latest improvements have been welcomed by the Government as another positive step from the payments industry to ensure customers are treated fairly.

Harriet Baldwin MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“More people than ever are banking online, taking advantage of being able to make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s vital that everything possible is done to prevent mistakes from happening. Today’s announcement is another good step forward, ensuring money gets back to the right place with less hassle than before, while also protecting the rights of everyone who receives a payment. We will continue working with the banking industry to make things better for customers.” 

The payments industry is also taking forward work to reduce the risk of errors happening in the first place. Payments UK, the trade association for the payments industry, is undertaking a review assessing the steps that can be taken by banks, building societies and customers to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place across online and mobile banking channels.