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Santander bank error: bank accidentally pays out £130m to thousands on Christmas - what happened?

Money was mistakenly deposited into around 7,500 accounts on Christmas

Thousands of people across the UK woke up on Christmas morning with quite the surprise in their bank accounts, after Santander accidentally deposited £130 million into around 75,000 accounts on Saturday 25 December.

Individuals and companies who received one-off or regular payments from 2,000 businesses with accounts at the bank were inadvertently paid for a second time in the Christmas blunder by the high street lender.

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What happened?

The issue, which was first reported by The Times, has left the bank attempting to claw back some of the cash, with money coming out of the lender’s own reserves.

Payments included wages or money from suppliers - but because the cash has been sent into accounts at rival banks, it may be more difficult for Santander to retrieve the money and will instead have to rely on the kindness of others.

According to The Times, account holders at Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, Co-operative Bank and Virgin Money are among those affected by the issue.

The bank mistakenly paid money into thousands of accounts on Christmas (Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

The banks in question are able to retrieve the cash, but some are reported to be concerned that the money might have already been spent.

One bank reportedly told the news outlet that it would be reluctant to take the money back if doing so would result in the account holder being tipped into an overdraft.

Pay UK, which runs the main payment systems in the UK, is holding talks on how to reverse the payments, with some cash already recovered.

Under the “bank error recovery” process, Santander is communicating with its rivals and approaching some customers directly.

What has Santander said?

A spokesperson for Santander said: “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 will be working hard with many banks across the UK to recover the duplicated transactions over the coming days.”

Do customers have to return the money?

According to Money.co.uk, if you’ve had an accidental payment made into your account, “legally” you cannot keep it.

Money says: “Legally, if a sum of money is accidentally paid into your bank or savings account and you know it doesn’t belong to you, then you must pay it back.”

Keeping any money that had been wrongly paid into your account could lead to you being charged with “retaining wrongful credit” under the Theft Act 1968.

“No matter how tempting it is, don’t immediately go out and spend the money,” Money advises. “Some people think that if the cash is gone then it’s too late, but in reality, you will be liable to pay it back anyway, even if it’s no longer in your account.”

Keeping the money could fall under the Theft Act 1968 (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

If you receive an unexpected payment into your account, the best course of action is always to inform your bank as quickly as possible.

In the past, there have been instances where people have been held responsible for spending money that mysteriously appeared in their accounts.

In 2007, a woman from Blackburn, in Lancashire, was accidentally paid £135,000 by Abbey bank. The woman reportedly went on a spending spree, giving money to friends and family, buying a holiday and a new sofa.

She admitted to “retaining wrongful credit” as well as 11 specimen charges of theft, and was ultimately sentenced to 10 months in prison.

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