/ Money

Have you ever paid money into the wrong bank account?

misdirected bank payment

One slip is all it takes to transfer money into the wrong account and while your bank should help you, there are no guarantees you’ll get it back.

Our online survey of 2,059 members of the public found that one in ten (10%) people have made an accidental payment, and 16% lost some, or all of the money.

If you realise you’ve mistyped an account number or sort code, you can’t recall the payment, even if you notice the mistake immediately.

The best-case scenario is that the incorrect numbers won’t match an existing account (in which case the payment should bounce or sit in a holding account).

But, if the numbers correlate to a live account, you may have a fight on your hands to get your money back.

Will your bank help?

Banks aren’t legally liable to cover losses if the mistake was yours.

However, electronic payments are covered by the Credit Payment Recovery (CPR) process, which means:

  • a) Your bank/building society will take action within two working days of you reporting a misdirected payment.
  • b) It will contact the receiving bank on your behalf and, as long as there is no dispute, you can expect a refund within 20 working days.
  • c) If you report it within two months and there is clear evidence of a mistake, you have a good chance of getting your money back because the receiving bank can protect the money (i.e. prevent withdrawal) and return it to you, even if they don’t hear back from their customer.
  • d) After two months, the receiving bank needs formal consent from its customer to freeze or withdraw the money. If the recipient insists the money is theirs, or doesn’t respond at all, you may have no choice but to give up, or take court action.

Why can’t banks check?

If the account details entered don’t match the name of the payee, you might assume your bank could spot the error – but it can’t.

Even though banks usually ask for the recipient’s name, the payment is directed solely by the account number and sort code (just as the address and postcode directs a letter).

This is set to change, thanks to industry plans for ‘confirmation of payee’. This will finally let you check the name associated with the account details before any money leaves your account.

This could be achieved using a Paym-type solution, or through banks sharing information securely.

There’s no official delivery date, but it’s expected by 2020.

Should banks be doing more?

Banks could help protect their customers now – by reminding them at the point of payment that the account holder’s name won’t be checked.

During my research for this investigation, I was surprised to learn that some banks (Barclays, Clydesdale Bank, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland) also recycle old account numbers.

This could cause problems if you saved the details of a friend who no longer holds that account.

What do you think about the processes in place to deal with misdirected payments? Could banks do more to protect customers or is it down to the individual?

Comments
Member

Some time ago my bank paid me £600 in error. They didn’t notice it until the chap to whom they were supposed to be paying the money complained. They told me they had to remove it from my account since to keep it would be theft. Their words .

Seems the rules only apply to the banks mis-paying you.

Member

It is the individual’s responsibility, (in my view) to make sure they are using the right account details. On a new account, I transfer £1 initially to ensure it is safely received. But equally, the online transfer screen should make clear to the customer what information is used for the transfer – account number and sort code – and what isn’t (account name), and advise them of the consequences of making a mistake – just as you helpfully explain above. We do need to be careful with our money and not do things with it we do not understand.

Member

About ten years ago, I picked up the paying in book for an account that had been closed and paid money into that account in the bank. They accepted it and it was only a day or so later that I happened to look at the paying in book more closely. I telephoned and wrote to the bank informing them of my mistake and the money was found, placed in the correct account and I had a letter confirming that this had been done. Later on, a Power Of Attorney application was processed by a very helpful manager who went out of her way to make the process as painless as possible. That branch is now closed. It is my submission that those actually working in the banks are doing a really good job and it is only when one goes up the corporate scale that the system is worthy of most of the expletives that thrown at it.

Member

I am not aware of ever paying money into the wrong account. It has been said a thousand times that banks should check that the account number and sort code match with the payee’s name but this reasonable request has been ignored. The banks are failing to act responsibly.

If a mistake could have been spotted by checking against the payee’s name I believe that the customer should have their money refunded. Take it from the directors’ pay and we might see the banks moving a little faster to implement a more secure system. 🙂

Member

This is what we can expect if/when ‘confirmation of payee’ comes in – a way to check the name associated with the account details entered.

It’s not entirely clear why it’s taken so long to get the ball rolling on this, although I know The Payments Council (now Payments UK) has previously said that introducing a name-check would slow payments down (and might cause problems if the payee used their maiden name or their initials instead of their full name).

Member

Surely, if commercial payees want to get paid quickly and cheaply they will align their account names with their operational names. Otherwise they can carry on receiving cheques that they will then have to pay to transact and await clearance.

Member

Thanks Chiara. If the payment used the maiden name or initials that would flag up a possible error that needs to be investigated but in other cases the payment could go ahead with little chance that it would land up in the wrong account.

Had it been one or two banks that were delaying implementation of confirmation of payee there would be pressure on them to change, but the problem affects the banking sector. We have a similar issue in energy pricing where those who who have prepayment meters often pay more for their energy than the rest of us. This is due to change but only after it has been hurting the poor for decades.

Member

This request has not been ignored. It is not as simple as is assumed, as a visit to the Payments Council site will show. However, put “Confirmation of payee” into a search, and it will be found to be an active area. One aspect seems to be registering appropriate payee details; names can be used in different formats for example. Mobile phone number is one proposal.

The Guardian article explains in outline what is happening, and it is suggested that implementation could be earlier than 2020 – possibly 2018.

It would be useful if Which? were to either investigate what is happening, the obstacles and proposals, thoroughly and present them here or in the mag, or ask banking experts to summarise the situation.

Member

As I suggested it would be possible to confirm the payee for most transactions and investigate the others. If the banks were losing money I suspect that difficult proble