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Tony Nyman is fortunate that the company which received an unexpected windfall of R1 909.92 will be refunding the money.

TheKraaifonteinresident said he made an EFT payment of R1 909.92 from his Capitec account to Standard Bank for the Saldanha Bay municipality but the funds disappeared and he tried for months to resolve the matter without success.

“The EFT appeared to have gone through. However, when I received my rates bill for March I noticed that the payment did not show. Assuming that the payment was too late for the March statement, I decided to wait for the April statement. When the payment did not reflect, I spoke to Divan Klaaste at Saldanha Bay who denied receiving it,” Mr Nyman said.

“Before approaching the banks, I checked my original EFT internet payment, and that’s when I realised I had entered my municipal rates bill number instead of the Standard Bank account number. In May, I visited Capitec and asked the consultant to reverse the payment because of my error. But they only have a 40-day window to do this, and she couldn’t explain why the payment went through successfully if the account number was incorrect, and she referred me to Standard Bank.

“Then I went to the Cape Gate branch of Standard Bank, where I explained my predicament to the consultant and the branch manager. They told me that as it was not a Standard account number, they would not be able to trace the payment and referred me to Capitec to have the payment reversed,” said Mr Nyman.

Mr Nyman wrote to the banking ombudsman who advised him to first contact the dispute resolution units at both banks and get a reference number.

“In August, a Standard Bank consultant said the money had been deposited into the account of Lilangwe Trading and Projects. However, they did not have the authority to refund the money and advised me to lay a charge of theft at the police station,” Mr Nyman said.

“It’s Standard Bank’s fault for processing the transaction,” Mr Nyman said. “Can you help?”

It isn’t the bank’s fault, and I did tell Mr Nyman he would probably have to go the legal route, but I would ask the bank.

A spokesperson for Standard Bank said they contacted Lilangwe Trading and Projects who gave the bank permission to debit their account and all fees relating to the transaction would be reversed.

Mr Nyman said Standard Bank told him that after investigating they realised the error and he would be refunded.

“The owner of Lilangwe Trading has signed an undertaking that he will pay back the money, but not before the end of November, Standard Bank told me,” Mr Nyman said. “Thanks for your help.”

The banking ombudsman said banks have warned they are not responsible if users, in this case Mr Nyman, provide the wrong information.

The banks all have different systems to enable the transfer of funds through the internet, but they all have some common features.

Once the user has submitted the information required for the EFT, they receive confirmation when it has been concluded successfully.

However, the problem occurs when the user enters an incorrect number. Normally, the user does not realise that the payment was made to the wrong account and is only informed later when the recipient denies getting the funds.

The user then claims it is the bank’s fault for processing the transfer because the name of the beneficiary was correct. However, according to the ombud, it’s not that cut and dried. The system requires the beneficiary’s name for the user’s own records.

“The account number field is pre-filled with zeros and because of various technical issues it would be impractical to match the account number to the beneficiary’s name as this would require the user to enter the name exactly as it is recorded on the system and in practice most transfers would fail due to the name not matching which would be counter-productive. The banks do warn users through their Ts and Cs that they are not responsible for wrong information,” the ombud said.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Credit Payment Instructions Agreement states that only the account number will be used in identifying the beneficiary’s account.

It further states that the paying bank (the bank the customer uses) will be liable. However, the ombud said the statement may be confusing but the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) is referring to the paying bank and the receiving bank to indicate on which side the liability would fall.

“This does not mean that the bank itself is liable. It is still the bank’s customer that captured the details incorrectly and the paying bank processed the payment based on that information supplied by the customer.

“It indicates that liability or responsibility does not fall on the receiving bank’s side, where accounts are not cross verified.

“The paying bank also does not cross verify account numbers and names when processing a payment on behalf of its customers, but mistakes made on this end cause liability to fall on the paying bank’s side, not the receiving bank’s side.

“It is still the paying bank’s customer who has entered the incorrect account details and they will suffer the loss (if the transaction cannot be reversed or recalled).

“The customer’s paying bank can try to assist by processing a recall or reversal of the transaction, but this can only be done with the consent of the recipient. The paying customer’s recourse will otherwise lie with the recipient and the funds should be claimed from the unintended recipient directly,” the ombud said.

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