People who accidentally send a payment to the wrong account can expect consistent, standardised and swifter help from May 2014, following the publication of a Code of Best Practice by the Payments Council today.
For the first time, under the new voluntary Code, banks and building societies have put in place standard central processes and defined maximum timescales to help customers recover money.
What customers can expect:
• When a customer notifies their bank or building society that they have made an electronic payment to the wrong account, action will commence on the customer's behalf within a maximum of two working days.
• If a bank is unable to reclaim funds immediately - for instance if the recipient disputes its return - the customer will be notified of the outcome of their bank's investigation in a maximum of twenty working days from the point of enquiry and in many cases much sooner.
• If funds cannot be recovered through the standard central process customers will be given clear and accurate information on the options they have available to them - such as court action against the recipient.
• Banks and building societies will ensure the design of online, mobile and telephone payment channels reduce the risk of a customer making a mistake. This might involve: customers being asked to input account details twice; extra warnings about using the correct account details; or prompting customers to check payment details that have not been used for some time so that they can be updated or deleted as necessary.
• If a customer does not get the service they should expect under the new Code, they should firstly follow their provider's formal complaints procedure, and failing a satisfactory outcome, take their complaint to the independent Financial Ombudsman.
The new Code cannot guarantee a customer will always recover any money paid in error but it will make sure that the customer knows the outcome quickly and consistently, and enable them to seek legal advice or take further action if required. The new Code will be monitored, and the number of customers using it tracked, to assess whether further refinements are needed.
Adam & Company, Barclays, Clydesdale Bank, Coventry Building Society, Coutts, HSBC Bank plc, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Santander UK plc, Tesco Bank, The Co-operative Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Yorkshire Bank have signed up to the new Code and are updating their procedures accordingly. Others are expected to announce their participation in the coming months.
Adrian Kamellard, Chief Executive of the Payments Council, said:
"Sending a payment with the wrong sort code or account number is like sending a letter with the wrong post code and address - it won't reach its intended destination and can be very difficult to get back. The overwhelming majority of the millions of payments we send each day reach their intended destination without any problem, but if you are unlucky enough to make a mistake this new process should help."
Research conducted by the Payments Council found that less than two out of three (63%) of Brits know their electronic payments are addressed using the sort code and account number. Almost half (49%) incorrectly thought the name of the recipient is checked, while 15% wrongly believed the recipient's post code is checked.
In addition to the Code, the Payments Council has updated its consumer education website PayYourWay.org.uk with tips to help customers avoid making mistakes when sending a payment:
• Always double check the sort code and account number when sending a payment. This is the only information used to address your payment.
• Check the amount and payment reference, particularly if you are paying a business or paying a bill.
• Once a payment has been sent it isn't possible to automatically reverse it. If you think you have sent a payment to the wrong account it is important to act quickly and contact your bank immediately.
• Likewise, if you have received money into your account that you think might have been sent to you in error, contact your bank immediately.