Skip to main content Skip to footer

PSR kick-starts industry-wide effort to tackle payment scams

Published 16 12 2016
Article image: 

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), the economic regulator for the £75 trillion UK payment systems industry, has announced the start of a concerted and coordinated industry-wide effort to tackle payment scams.

The regulator today published its response to a super-complaint issued by consumer watchdog Which?, about protection for people making authorised ‘push’ payments. In the response the PSR outlines an approach that sees regulators and industry commit to working together to better protect people from scams.

In the super-complaint, lodged in September 2016, Which? raised concerns that there is not enough protection for people who are tricked into transferring money to a fraudster via an authorised push payment (APP) – when the consumer instructs their bank to send money. 

The PSR has now examined Which?’s evidence and gathered its own to build a clearer understanding of the issue. As a result, the regulator is warning that APP scams are a growing concern, and more needs to be done to address the problem. 

Among its findings, the PSR has identified that, in contrast to other types of fraud and scams, the data available on the scale and type of APP scams is poor-quality and the ways in which banks currently work together in responding to reports of scams needs to improve.  

The PSR also found evidence to suggest some banks could do more to identify potentially fraudulent incoming payments, and to prevent accounts falling under the influence of scammers.

Hannah Nixon, Managing Director of the Payment Systems Regulator, said:

'In a short space of time we have built a clearer picture of the problems we are facing, and it is evident that this type of scam is a growing problem that needs to be tackled.

 

'Tens of thousands of people have, combined, lost hundreds of millions of pounds to these scams, but the data we have seen so far, is incomplete. We need a concerted and coordinated industry-wide approach to better protect consumers, and we need it to start today.'

The PSR has put together a package of work aimed at reducing fraudsters’ ability to perpetrate scams and, when they do occur, increasing the chance that the victim will be able to recover the funds.

The PSR has agreed a programme of work with Financial Fraud Action UK that the banking industry should lead on:

  • Industry, liaising with the Information Commissioner’s Office as appropriate, to develop a common understanding of what information can be shared under existing law and the key legal barriers to sharing further relevant information (for example, information that would help victims recover their money). 
  • Industry to develop, collect and publish robust scam statistics, to address the lack of clear data on the scale and scope of the problem, and to enable monitoring of the issue over time. 
  • Industry to develop a common approach or best practice standards, that both the victim’s bank and the bank which receives the money should follow when responding to reports of scams. We would expect this to cover issues such as the availability of fraud specialists and processes for agreeing indemnity agreements between banks.

The PSR will monitor this work on an on-going basis, and commit to review industry progress in the second half of 2017.

In addition, the PSR will do further work to consider the potential for the operators of the payment systems, in particular Faster Payments Service and CHAPS, to play an expanded role in helping to minimise the consumer harm caused by scams. It will look to publish specific terms of reference for this work in early 2017 and its findings in the second half of 2017.

The FCA will also undertake actions, which can be viewed on the FCA website or in the footnotes below.

The PSR concluded in its response that there was not sufficient evidence to justify a change in liability, i.e. making banks liable for reimbursing victims of APP scams, and it is aware of the possible unintended consequences of doing so. However, the regulator did note that, as work progresses and additional evidence comes to light, it will consider whether it is appropriate to propose changes to the obligations or incentives that banks have for these types of scams.

Hannah Nixon continued:

'There is no silver bullet, but more can be done to prevent these scams in the first instance, and to respond faster when it does happen, in order to give consumers more support and help in recovering their money.

 

'Across the banking industry there is already a range of work underway that has the potential to help combat some of the issues we are seeing, but more needs to be done.

 

'As technology improves, we need to find ways of making it harder for fraudsters to commit these scams. We are committed to seeing the banking industry work together to take a firm and pro-active stance in protecting their customers from this type of fraud.'

The full response to the Which? super-complaint and the proposed next steps outlined by the PSR can be found here.

Notes to Editors

1. The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (FSBRA), section 68, states that certain representative bodies can complain to the PSR if they believe that features of the payment systems market are, or appear to be, significantly damaging to the interests of service-users. This is known as a super-complaint. Read more.

2. This is the first super-complaint that the PSR has received.

3. Under FSBRA, a super-complaint may not be made to the Financial Conduct Authority if it is a one which could be made to the Payment Systems Regulator. See FSBRA section 68.

4. What payment systems are, how they work, and why they are important.

5. The PSR was incorporated on 1 April 2014 and became fully operational on 1 April 2015.

6. The PSR is the regulator and concurrent competition authority for payment systems in the UK and all participants in those payment systems (payment service providers, operators and infrastructure providers to those payment systems).

7. The PSR has three statutory objectives:

  • to promote effective competition in the markets for payment systems and for services provided by those systems, including between operators, payment service providers and infrastructure providers, in the interest of service-users
  • to promote the development of innovation in payment systems, in particular the infrastructure used to operate payment systems, in the interest of service-users
  • to ensure that payment systems are operated and developed in a way that considers and promotes the interests of service-users

8. The FCA will undertake the following actions:

  • Work with firms to tackle concerns around both sending and receiving banks in relation to APP fraud
  • Evidence received in relation to the super-complaint will be examined by FCA supervisors, which will address any firm-specific issues directly
  • If, following the above steps, there are unresolved sector-wide issues, the FCA will initiate further work. Any such work should consider the developments made since the thematic review of banks’ defences against investment fraud in 2012.