The NZ Herald reported how a woman accidently transferred $850 to the wrong Bank account because, as she freely admitted, she had typed in a wrong number, has been given $250 “compensation” by her Bank.

This arose after she complained to the Financial Services Complaints agency that the Bank had promised to “refund” her within 7 days but hadn’t done so. For a start it couldn’t “refund” her as it had not been the recipient of the mistaken payment. What it had promised was to try and get her money back, a generous gesture it was not obliged to offer, and that if it succeeded, she’d have it inside a week.

In the event the Bank had been unable to retrieve repayment from the accidental payee, thus her complaint.

The Bank had absolutely no obligation to this woman. However, it had generously tried to help by approaching the payee who’d refused to return the accidental payment. There was nothing more the Bank could do.

I imagine usually in such cases of accidental payments the intermediatory role offered by Banks works as most people on the receiving end of mistaken payments would readily return the money. Not to do so constitutes theft.

Here’s what bothers me about this. The woman freely admitted she made a mistake. However, she wants someone else to pay for it. It’s so very contemporary New Zealand. In making this token payment the Bank erred badly as it simply encourages others as half-witted as this woman to try and make someone else pay for their blunders.

Banks have always been popular whipping boys, most recently for alleged excess profits. Analysis showed that by normal criteria their profits here are not excessive. It’s time they took a tougher line and simply stuck to their depositary and lending business.

Banks act as depository for people’s money and as a financier to the public with loans. Yet some stupid people persistently demand things of them outside these roles.


Notwithstanding the lady’s full responsibility for the mistake I wonder if she could try to recover the money from the recipient (not from the bank of course) through the police or through a court order. As you say in the post the recipient knowingly keeping something that’s not his is probably committing a theft.

I agree with you Mike L, that seems a far better solution than to blame the bank!

I’m curious as to how the woman claims to have “typed in a wrong account number”?
I understood that all N.Z. banks used mod 11 (or similar) check digit routines for generating account numbers.
If so, a 6 digit account number typed in with an error must have corresponded to the 7th (check) digit she typed in also being an error, as the 7th (check) digit is calculated based on the previous 6 digits!
Someone with superior knowledge to mine might explain it better as to how Mod 11 CHECK DIGIT works.

“It’s so very contemporary NZ” sums this whole issue up perfectly. No personal responsibility “they” should sort it out.

A larger issue is how banks let payments go through where the account name entered bears no resemblance to the name attached to the account number entered. This leads to both potentially detectable errors like this one going uncaught but also facilitates many outright frauds.

Usage of the IBAN coding as in Europe and many other countries would significantly reduce the likelihood of such errors. There are online services that can provide details of the target account, but not the name. Some UK banks do offer a name matching feature when doing transfers to business account recipients. The technology is there, just not being used.

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