I paid Mark One by mistake but can’t get my money back
In October I made an online payment for the first time using my Nationwide internet account. I thought I was paying my Marks & Spencer Mastercard bill but, in fact, I transferred £836 to Mark One Mastercard, a card I’ve never owned. The website has a drop-down menu and it must have flipped up one name without me noticing. Nationwide contacted HSBC, Mark One’s bank, and after a month it says it has been unable to obtain a debit authority and therefore the case is closed. CN, Kidderminster, Worcestershire
Your case is uncannily similar to a saga investigated three years ago by my predecessor, Margaret Dibben, in which a NatWest customer paid Mark One instead of M&S because of a drop-down menu. The difference is that back then Mark One Mastercard existed; now, no one has heard of it. HSBC tells me it is no longer the card issuer. Internacionale, the fashion chain which took over Mark One in 2009, is unaware of it, as are the Payments Council, Mastercard and the UK Card Association.
Which raises the question why Nationwide has an obsolete card on its menus. Under Financial Services Authority rules banks and building societies are required to take reasonable steps to recover a customer’s money if they have been misdirected, but are not bound to refund it. Prompted by The Observer, Nationwide picked up the phone again to HSBC and had the brainwave of giving the numbers and sort codes for the account which received the transfer. Armed with these new clues it located the money and returned it.
“The trouble was, we were looking for a card or account in the Mark One name,” said an HSBC spokeswoman. “Faster Payments, which this transaction was, are irrevocable. Any attempt to reclaim funds as a result of an error are subject to a debit authority from the beneficiary. We contacted the beneficiary on a number of occasions and have now received the authority to return the funds.”
Nationwide is liaising with Experian, which administers its drop-down menus, to ensure they are kept up to date. The Payments Council wants anyone who has had funds misdirected to contact it via its website.
If you need help email Anna Tims at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number.