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Retrieval of an incor­rectly made bank transfer

19. January 2019

It can be difficult to retrieve an incor­rectly made bank transfer, but it is possible under certain circum­stances, which is why you should always try to retrieve it from your own bank.


The facts of the case: retrieval of a transfer in the event of fraud­ulent recipient of funds

A buyer buys a machine on the Internet. The seller requires a deposit before transport. The deposit is paid by the buyer via online bank transfer. After that the buyer can no longer reach the seller. The supposedly commis­sioned transport company does not know the procedure. The buyer calls his bank which manages his online current account (telephone banking). The buyer/bank customer demands that the bank employee stop the transfer immediately.


What is the legal situation in case of incorrect transfer?

First of all, it should be made clear that a bank acting on behalf of its bank client is merely a service provider. The bank merely executes the instruction to transfer a specific amount credited to the bank client’s account to another recipient’s account. The Bank therefore does not check this booking instruction for any errors.

In the event of a faulty booking for which the bank is not excep­tionally respon­sible, the bank customer cannot assert any claims against his bank. His claim is limited to the fact that his bank supports him in reclaiming his transfer, according to Attorney Fürstenow.

If the transfer has already been carried out and the trans­ferred amount has been credited to the recipient’s account, such support is limited to contacting the recipient bank.


Fast action is required

For example, on a working day at 11:30 a.m., a transfer is made via online banking. Around 1:00 p.m. the bank customer notices that something is wrong: the payee seems to be a fraudster. At 2:10 p.m., the bank customer dials in via the PIN-authorised telephone banking service of his bank and demands that the transfer be stopped immedi­ately, otherwise it is prevented that the trans­ferred amount is credited to the recipient’s account.

The transfer can be stopped if the actual booking process has not yet been carried out by his bank, i.e. no validation has yet been set at the recipient bank.

Attorney Fürstenow points out that the payment service provider, i.e. the bank, is obliged — and thus also entitled — under Section 675s of the German Civil Code to ensure that the payment amount is received by the payment service provider of the payee at the latest by the end of the business day following the date of receipt of the payment order. Within the framework of this statutory provision, however, the banks are free to organise their credit transfers. This means that each bank has its own fixed transfer times at different times of the day.


Transfer stop before transfer / validation at recipient bank

So if the transfer was made at 11:30 a.m. and the telephone banking at 2:10 p.m., and if the daily transfer time would be at 3:00 p.m., then the bank customer has been lucky: the transfer has not yet been executed and his his bank can stop and cancel the transfer order.

If the his bank’s internal transfer time was 14:00, the bank would normally have executed the transfer order at 14:10, so that the trans­ferred amount had already been credited to the recipient bank.

According to Attorney Fürstenow, the important thing now is: when the recipient bank in its turn credits the amount to it to its bank customer as the actual recipient of the transfer. In any case, the bank customer should try, with the help of his bank, to prevent the validation / avail­ability at the recipient bank in favour of the payee by his bank contacting the recipient bank immedi­ately in order to stop the validation.

According to §675t BGB Abs. 1 S. 1 of the German Civil Code (BGB), the recipient bank shall immedi­ately credit the payment account of the payee. Immediate means without culpable hesitation, i.e. it does not have to have taken place immedi­ately at the moment of the validation at the recipient bank.


Contact the recipient bank before validation with the payee

If the amount trans­ferred was credited to the recipient bank at 2:00 p.m. and the recipient bank does not make its validation for the benefit of its bank customers until 3:00 p.m., this validation could still be stopped by the recipient bank. However, the recipient bank would also have to cooperate for this.


Contact the recipient bank after validation with the payee

In the case of contact with the recipient bank only after validation with the payee, the recipient bank could no longer do anything either. The recipient bank could only contact the payee and inform him of the alleged incorrect booking. The fraud­ulent payee alone has the power to repay the money now.


Summary: Immediate contacting of the client’s bank can make the difference

The bank customer should contact his house bank as soon as possible if he becomes aware of an incorrect booking and revoke the transfer order. The custormer’s bank must do every­thing reasonable to stop the transfer and stop the validation of the payee.

Attorney Sascha C. Fürstenow will be happy to advise you on this and offers a free and non-binding initial assessment of your circum­stances in advance.