Santander is attempting to recover £130million after accidentally paying out the cash to tens of thousands of its customers on Christmas Day.
Around 75,000 people and businesses who were set up to receive either a one-off or regular payment from 2,000 companies with Santander accounts were wrongly paid twice, with the second payment coming directly from the bank’s own reserves.
The Spanish-owned bank will struggle to get their money reimbursed because it has been sent to recipients who belong to a litany of other banks such as Barclays, HSBC and NatWest.
Even though the windfall was Santander’s mistake, it is illegal for customers to keep the wrongly accredited money and if they do they face being charged with ‘retaining wrongful credit’ under the Theft Act 1968.
But although those banks are able to take back money that was incorrectly paid into its customers’ accounts, they fear some may have already spent it.
One said it didn’t want to take money back from a customer if it would force them into overdraft.
Pay UK, which runs the main payment systems in the UK, is discussing the issue with Santander while the bank desperately tries to recover the money.
The bank has been using ‘bank error recovery’ to go to various banks or directly to recipients of the cash to get it back.
A Santander spokeswoman told The Times: ‘We’re sorry that due to a technical issue some payments from our corporate clients were incorrectly duplicated on the recipients’ accounts
‘None of our clients were at any point left out of pocket as a result and we are taking steps to recover the duplicated transactions in line with industry processes.’
The spokeswoman added: ‘The duplicated payments were the result of a scheduling issue, which we quickly identified and rectified. The recipients and purpose of payment will have varied among clients but could have included wages or supplier payments.’
Santander, which has 14million customers, was left in hot water earlier this year in May when it was forced to apologise after a glitch meant some of its customers weren’t able to make any payments for almost an entire Saturday.
And in August last year thousands of customers were unable to access their online accounts.