Saturday, 19 June 2010

Why can't people use BACS correctly

It is not like BACS is new, but people (and banks) continue to just get it plain wrong.

We see two key fields on BACS credits we received (apart from date and amount, obviously). They are the originator account name and the beneficiary reference. Both are 18 character text fields.

The account name is often truncated to fit and not that helpful to identify people, but the beneficiary reference is what is there for us to tell who the hell sent the money... Its a field we tell the payer to quote when making the payment. Its used for all bill payments of any sort to specify the reference for the person you are paying. If you pay a gas bill, its the gas bill company gas-account for you (a long number usually). We tell people to quote a reference that is the account with us, e.g. A12345A

So what am I supposed to do when some bozo sends a payment with :-

Originator name: MAIN A/C UK
Beneficiary reference: BROADBAND

I should set up a charity or something - the BACS victims support fund. And we should make it part of the terms that all stupid payments are in fact donations to that charity... Grrr...


  1. I think the problem is that it's not obvious to most people when they go to pay a bill that it's necessary. Yes, if you think about it then clearly it is, but people don't know how payments work, they just want to pay their bill. Businesses that submit payments should know better, but there seems to be little guidence to individuals that they actually need to put something.

    The company I worked for until recently made a product to deal with just this problem, it was a big database of lots of organisations that received payments and a description of what reference number they needed and where to find it. So it might say "Enter the reference number found at the top right of your bill beginning with ABC......" and could validate that a correct reference format had been entered depending on the sort code and account number that the payment was being made to. Obviously this required a lot of cooperation with payment receivers to obtain that information so mostly covered the bigger ones.

    I guess the problem there though, is that you need to sell the product to banks, but it's not them with the problem, it's the people receiving the payments... But they can't use it.

  2. yes give it to charity and then send an unpaid bill invoice to whoever doesn't appropriately pay their bill !

  3. I got a payment from "Surrey" once with no other information. Calls to the bank asking who sent it was of no use. In the end I sent out my overdue invoice payments and someone finally owned up.

  4. Surely half the problem is the utterly broken online systems most banks have - e.g. one I use has you set the beneficiary reference per-payee rather than per-payment, so you have to edit the payee each time if you want to put a different reference on different payments.

  5. On-line banking is indeed a horror.
    Payments to a company should have the reference cast in stone, but for payments to an individual you should be able to change the reference on a whim.
    Any chance you could set up a sane banking service once you have dome with the telecoms stuff?