Check before you press pay

If you accidently pay into the wrong account, there is no guarantee you will receive your money back.

Check before you press payI recently received two complaints from readers who had accidently paid money into the wrong account, highlighting the risk of electronic fund transfers (EFT) and how little recourse you have when it comes to claiming back your money.

Ofentse used the Capitec app to send cash to his son’s Capitec account. “Unfortunately, I used the wrong account number. Upon realizing the mistake, I tried to reverse the payment through the app but this is not provided for by Capitec. ”

Ofentse contacted Capitec and they confirmed the payment, however they told him they cannot reverse the money before obtaining permission from the holder of the account that received the money.

“I was told that the account-holder is not answering the phone, but they left messages. I was assured that they had frozen the money. After the account-holder still didn’t answer the bank’s calls, I was further informed there is nothing they could do anymore but just close the case, meaning that the money will just stay at Capitec Bank.”

Capitec would also not initially provide the details of the customer due to privacy issues, however, this has subsequently been resolved and contact has been made.

In Pamela’s case, she transferred R2 500 using the FNB App to her landlord’s Absa account before discovering that she had paid to the wrong recipient.

“I have been up and down trying to reverse the money. Absa says it is sitting in an FNB sub account and when I go to FNB they say Absa should be able to trace the payment using the reference,” she wrote.

What are your rights?

What are your rights when it comes to incorrect transfers and getting the bank to pay back the money?

According to Charl Nel, head of communications at Capitec, if money is accidently transferred to the wrong account, the client can contact the call centre to ask for a reversal.

“We will contact the account-holder who has received the money, or alternatively their bank if transferred to another bank. After checking that there are sufficient funds in the person’s account to allow for the repayment, the bank requires the permission of their account holder to action the reversal. If the permission is given, the money will then be reimbursed by the account-holder’s bank.”

Ravi Shunmugam, CEO of FNB EFT Product House confirms that it is the responsibility of the payer to ensure that the beneficiary’s account details are captured correctly.

“If the account number and branch code are valid at the beneficiary bank, the payment will be processed successfully and is irrevocable. Reversals are not guaranteed and are attempted on a case by case basis.”

To request a reversal, the client needs to complete a reversal form available online and forward it to Authority must be obtained from the recipient before a reversal can be attempted and the recipient must have sufficient available funds for a reversal to be successful.

Basically, two things must happen for you to get your money back. Firstly, the account-holder needs to agree to the reversal. Banks cannot legally access funds from someone’s account without their permission.

Secondly the funds need to be available. If the recipient has an overdrawn account or has withdrawn the funds, then you will have to negotiate an agreement on the repayment.

If no permission is given or funds are not available, then the bank hands the problem over to you to liaise with the recipient to pay back the money they received in error. It becomes a matter between two individuals and no longer involves the bank.

This could end up as a legal matter. A few years ago, we dealt with a case where a woman had incorrectly transferred R80 000 into a business account. The business had gone into liquidation and all funds had been frozen. She had to go to court to lodge a claim.

So, before you push the “pay” button on your app, triple check you have the correct recipient and bank details. Not all people are honest and in desperate times they may be less inclined to do the right thing and pay back your money.

This article first appeared in City Press.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi Maya thank you for the insightful information, I just want to ask how does the bank deal with the case were huge amounts of money are incorrectly deposited into individual accounts eg case of NSFAS and the lady that happened few years back and recently the UIF and money incorrectly deposited to other people account, because I feel like banks tend to be unfair to their clients if they make mistakes but wen it is large institutions who made mistakes they tend to take matters serious.

    • As far as I am aware the bank would still have to get permission of the individual to get the money paid back – even if the payment was from an institution. The institution could take legal action against the individual if they did not agree

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