Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 16:31 UK

Cheque 'confusion' for customers

Signing a cheque
Many staff could not not provide "clear and accurate" information on cheques

Banking staff are giving out "confusing and inconsistent" information to customers about the clearing time of cheques, according to a watchdog.

Training had been ineffective as many staff appeared confident even though they were giving out wrong information, the Banking Code Standards Board said.

The board said that the results were worse than when it carried out a similar survey a year ago.

A cheque is deemed to have cleared absolutely after six days.

However, two-thirds of the bank and building society staff monitored in the mystery shopping survey did not know that a cheque could not bounce after six days.

Other rules

Since November 2007, interest must be credited no more than two days after a cheque has been paid in and the money must be available to be drawn out after no more than four days.

Our review did not indicate that large numbers of customers are being financially disadvantaged as a result but the industry clearly has work to do
Robert Skinner, Banking Code Standards Board

Staff were more aware of these guidelines, with 42% of those surveyed found to be aware of the first and 50% aware of the second.

But the board said the combined results were "significantly worse" than the sample taken in 2008.

"It is clearly disappointing that, despite the concerns raised in our last report, we have found customer facing staff, in the majority of cases, unable to provide clear and accurate information to customers on the cheque clearing cycle," said Robert Skinner, chief executive of the board.

"Our review did not indicate that large numbers of customers are being financially disadvantaged as a result but the industry clearly has work to do in improving the knowledge of front line staff."

Ten banks and nine building societies were surveyed in the first three months of the year, with a total of 164 branch visits and 110 telephone calls made.

The Banking Code is a voluntary standard for banks and building societies.



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