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Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Saturday, 30 May 2009 15:44 UK

Faster payments still going slow

By Samantha Washington
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Online banking log in screen
The Faster Payments System offers same day clearance of funds

A year after the launch of same day bank transfers, nearly half of eligible payments still take three or more days.

Some £45bn has not gone through the Faster Payments System as it should since May 2008, the BBC can reveal.

Several banks and the largest building society have made little progress in offering same day clearance.

The body which runs the clearing system says it is working, but customers who leave their banks in frustration are doing "the right thing".

Same day clearance of funds was introduced via the Faster Payments System back in May 2008.

Twelve banks and one building society signed up as founder members.

But one year on, BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme can reveal that nearly half of eligible payments are not making it through the system, taking three or more days to clear.

Partial service

The programme has analysed that this equates to around £45bn worth of transfers since the scheme began.

Seven of the founder members are offering a partial service or practically no service at all.

These include some of the country's largest banks - Abbey and Lloyds - and the biggest building society, Nationwide.

Sandra Quinn of APACS
Sandra Quinn says banking customers deserve better service

Abbey says it has been focused on the merger of its technology with its new parent, Spanish bank Santander.

The bank hopes to be operating at 35% capacity by June 2009.

Lloyds had offered an online same day transfer service, but it has since withdrawn it.

It told the BBC in January the system would be running again in the spring, but now estimates it will not be back up until December 2009.

One of the main reasons for money not going through on the same day is that many of the banks impose an upper limit on the value that can be transferred by the system.

Nationwide only offers Faster Payments on amounts of £10 or less, which may explain why it is only processing 1% of transfers through the system. The Alliance & Leicester, Lloyds and Halifax also have thresholds considerably less than the industry limit of £10,000.

Industry frustration

There has been even less progress on the sending of other types of payment through the system.

The majority of the 13 founder members of Faster Payments do not allow customers to settle their credit card bills through the system.

This includes large banks such as HBOS and Lloyds.

And standing orders, typically set up to donate to charity, are not permitted as Faster Payments by nearly half of the founders.

The industry body which represents the banks on payments and clearing times is APACS.

Its spokesperson Sandra Quinn says the system is working but that customers deserve better.

"Our main target in the first year was to make sure that it worked. It's robust. It works everyday.

"But we are getting frustrated… those customers who have walked away, actually they've done the right thing."

Some banks are providing a full service. These include RBS Group (including RBS and Natwest) and Barclays.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 30 May at 1204 BST.

The programme will be repeated on Sunday, 31 May at 2102 BST.

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