New online payment safeguards 'brilliant news'

man on lap-top computer Image copyright Thinkstock

Two new safeguards to protect people when they pay online or via banking apps have been welcomed as "brilliant news" by a personal finance expert.

The changes, announced by the payments industry, will allow consumers to double check they are paying the right person.

When money is taken from an account by a direct debit, consumers will also be asked to confirm the payment.

The plans are designed help prevent fraud, and stop accidental transfers.

They are due to come into force by 2020 at the latest.

"Around £755m was stolen from UK bank accounts last year, and the problem looks set to worsen as criminals become more technologically savvy," said Ruth Evans, chair of the Payments Strategy Forum, which is recommending the changes.

"We need to address the issue head on."

Extra protection

The first new safeguard will be known as "Confirmation of Payee".

When a bank account holder makes a payment online, a message will come back from the bank, confirming the name of the person they are paying.

Only when they click "OK" will the payment go through.

This should stop people paying the wrong person accidentally, or being tricked into doing so by fraudsters.

Image copyright Thinkstock

The second proposed safeguard is "Request to Pay".

When a company wants to take a regular payment from a customer's account - for example gym monthly membership fees, or a mobile phone company charging for extra data used - the consumer will receive a message asking them to approve the payment.

Again they will have to click "OK" for the payment to be processed.

'Ambitious reforms'

The plans have been welcomed by the Payments Systems Regulator (PSR) and personal finance experts.

"This is just the start, the ambitious reforms should make it far less likely you'll be hit with hefty fees for missed payments, much easier for you to stay informed about where your cash is going, safer for you to bank online and simpler for you to change account," said Hannah Maundrell, the editor in chief of

"It's rare you read an official paper that seems to 'get' all of the issues and addresses them sensibly. Simply put, these plans are brilliant news for everyone with a bank account."

However, Which? was less enthusiastic.

"This is a welcome first step, but is not a cure and won't be enough to protect people from bank transfer scams," said Alex Neill, managing director of Which? Home and Legal Services.

"With scams on the rise and scammers becoming ever more sophisticated, the financial regulators need to go further to ensure banks adequately tackle bank transfer fraud and safeguard us from scams."

The plans also involve the consolidation of three payment system operators:

  • Bacs, which administers automatic payment methods such as direct debits
  • Cheque and Credit Clearing Company
  • Faster Payments Service, available 24 hours a day

The Payments Strategy Forum said the new provider would be simpler, more accessible and more responsive to innovation.

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