2 minutes reading time (395 words)

What happens when electronic payments go wrong?

flowersI do love getting flowers: but not these ones pictured here. Nice though they are, they weren’t meant for me – and I paid for them. I thought I was being very sensible, getting ahead and ordering flowers for an old friend several weeks ago. Then on Wednesday (the day before her birthday) I got the confirmation email from Marks & Sparks, telling me the flowers had been dispatched and would be delivered the next day... to my house: more than 100 miles away from the friend’s home.

And it was totally my fault. For some reason I got the delivery address wrong (I imagine I ticked a box saying it was the same as the billing address) – hence why the flowers came to me, rather than at the birthday girl’s. Whoops: a really silly mistake, but thankfully not that pricey.

But it did remind me that actually, if you are doing anything financial online you need to be 100% in the room and concentrate. I guess when I ordered the flowers I was probably doing something else at the same time – even if it was only listening intently to something on the radio. While misdirected flowers are annoying, it’s not financially ruinous. Had I been sending a large sum of money to pay a bill or transfer between accounts, then it could have been. And alarmingly, lots of us do send payments electronically to the wrong recipient.

According to Payments UK more than half of us believe the recipient’s name is checked when sending an electronic payment. It’s not: so you need to make sure both the sort code and account number are correct. Check, check and check again. There are moves afoot for confirmation of payee’s name on electronic transfers but these are just plans at the moment.

At the moment, you need to be alert: there are some good tips here. If you have made a mistake, then if the (incorrect) recipient doesn’t dispute the payment was made in error then your bank should be able to get the money back to you in 20 days. You must contact your bank as quickly as you can. There is a voluntary code which obliges banks to deal with the matter quickly. But it doesn’t guarantee your money will be returned. It’s better not to make mistakes in the first place.


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Wednesday, 24 April 2019