Rules changed for people who make electronic payment mistakes

It will be easier for people who send a payment by mistake to get their money back. Credit: Michael Kappeler / DPA/PA Images

People who mistakenly send a mobile, online or phone banking payment to the wrong account are set to get more help to retrieve their money.

Payments sent in error will now be sent back to the person who made the mistake within 20 working days where there is no dispute that the money was sent in error, according to payment services Faster Payments and Bacs.

The rise of online banking and mobile payments means that more people are keying in bank account numbers and sort codes themselves - and a slip of the finger could mean that a payment ends up in the wrong account instead of the intended recipient.

The new procedures apply to payments sent using Faster Payments, which processes virtually every mobile, online and telephone banking payment between banks or building societies, and Bacs Direct Credit, which is used to pay nearly 90% of the UK workforce as well as to process pension payments.

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."

Implementation is also being rolled out across other banks and building societies during early 2016.

What happens when an electronic payment is sent to the wrong account?

  • When you tell your bank or building society what has happened, they will start action on your behalf within 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 receive a refund of the protected funds within 20 working days from when you notified your bank.

  • If 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. However, no funds would be removed without the consent of the receiving customer.

  • If it is not possible to reclaim the payment you wrongly sent - for example if the recipient disputes its return - you will be told of the outcome within 20 working days from when you made your enquiry.

  • If funds cannot be recovered through the standard central process, your bank should give you clear and accurate information on the options you have available - such as court action against the recipient.

  • The new industry procedures do not change the legal rights and responsibilities of you, your bank or the recipient of the funds. It is a crime for someone to intentionally spend money that does not belong to them and this can be reported to the police.

  • If you are not happy with the way your case has been dealt with, you can complain to your provider or ultimately the independent Financial Ombudsman Service.