Claire Logie, an employee of one of the big four high street banks, realized too late that indeed “haste makes waste” when she accidentally clicked the wrong box, sending £2,000 to another person’s bank account, when she was supposed to transfer the money into her savings account.
The wrong box belonged to someone she had done business a few years back and whose banking details have been saved on her account.
Although she felt “sick and very upset”, she assumed that she would eventually recover the cash that was mistakenly sent through internet banking.
But six months after the wrong transaction, Claire Logies still has to receive a refund of her money.
Although Claire works in a bank and has been doing internet banking regularly, her degree and qualifications does not exempt her from making mistakes and so do many others.
The problems and travails of her quest to get her money back has led her to the Alliance and Leicester Bank, the bank directly concerned with the transaction, and the Financial Ombudsman.
Neither is unable to help her case because the bank says it cannot force the person who received the money to return it because they were not the ones amiss in the transaction. Moreover, the Bank will not reveal the name of their client citing the Data Protection Act.
Thus Claire has no legal basis and therefore cannot lodge a case or complaint even in the small claims court.
Bringing her case to the Financial Ombudsman also proved futile because Claire does not have any complaints against the Bank.
In most cases similar to Claire’s, most people receiving money by mistake often pay it back. But Claire’s case is just one of the few wrong transactions which need to be addressed by a regulating body or council in order to protect the clients.
Jemma Smith of the Payments Council reiterates that there are no such regulations that protect errors such as this. Thus committing an honest mistake in transferring of funds often result in one’s futile efforts to retrieve the money mistakenly deposited to another’s account except if the person who mistakenly received the money will voluntarily return the amount.
If one were to ponder on the legality of this issue, it will be realized that you are dealing with a grey area where there are no policies, laws, or guidelines to protect the person. The law does not have a clout in defending the rights of the person involved in this type of transaction.
Even the police are not sure if they have legal authority to investigate the case.
A financial website set up by a former Daily Telegraph journalist Alison Steed, MyMoneyDiva.com, reports that problems similar to Claire’s is much more widespread than being reported.
In fact, Steed estimates that almost L349m which is equivalent to approximately 1% of all bank transfers are paid to the wrong person every year, although a majority of these payments were recovered. But returning the money is really a voluntary effort done on the goodwill of the person who mistakenly received it.
Steed expresses pessimism regarding Claire’s case. She reiterated that the Financial Ombudsman Services should take up an active stance against these cases by setting up a department to address these mistakes and form a group to arbitrate these cases.
While the case is still pending, Claire has a cartoon on her desk which says “stop and think” to remind her to do better the next time she does internet banking.