Refunds for accidental payments to speed up

People who accidentally send payments to the wrong bank or building society account can soon expect better service when it comes to reclaiming their money.

From May 2014 a new code of best practice introduced by the Payments Council will ensure that banks and building societies will offer a consistent and swifter service for customers to recover their funds.

Under the voluntary code, banks and building societies will have to take action on a customer's behalf within two days of being notified of the error.

If a bank cannot reclaim funds straightaway - perhaps because the recipient disputes its return - the customer will be notified of the outcome of the bank's investigation within a maximum of 20 working days from when it was first notified.

If the bank cannot recover the money, customers will be given clear information on what options are available to them, such as taking the recipient to court.

While customers will have no guarantee they will recover any money paid in error, the code will ensure they receive information speedily and consistently.

If customers are not satisfied with the service they receive under the new code, they can firstly make a complaint to their provider or, failing that, the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Banks that have committed to signing up to the code are Adam & Company, Barclays, Clydesdale Bank, Coventry Building Society, Coutts, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Santander, Tesco Bank, The Co-operative Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank. Others are set to announce their participation in the coming months.

The right destination

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 postcode 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."

With more payments being carried out through mobile apps, such as the new Paym system – which allows people to send money to a current account using the account holder's mobile phone number – there is the worry that fraudsters will target mobile banking.

Gabriel Hopkins at technology company FICO believes mobile payments will catch on, but also shares this concern: "People will need to be vigilant and monitor their accounts to make sure that there is no suspicious activity, as with every advance in banking technology comes a new fraud risk."