The Payments Council produces best practice guidelines on the format of account numbers
- Payments Council honours its commitment, made in the National Payments Plan, to evaluate the problems linked to using non-standard format account numbers
- Best practice guidelines have been designed to encourage adoption of standard account numbers as well as assist those financial institutions that still use non-standard account numbers
The National Payments Plan, published in May 2008, revealed that some users experience difficulty when making payments with non-standard account number; for example, their payments may be prone to delay, or setting up a Direct Debit may be more difficult. In response to this, the Payments Council undertook an extensive consultation with stakeholders and has designed best practice guidelines to reduce the impact of non-standardised account numbers on users. The guidelines will be applicable to all financial institutions, and are available to download from www.paymentscouncil.org.uk.
The key recommendations for banks currently using non-standard account number formats include:
- Adopting the standard format when they upgrade their systems.
- Masking non-standard numbers so that customers can use new account numbers whilst the system can still recognise and process via its non-standard format.
In cases where the first two recommendations cannot be applied, other suggestions include:
- Creating a standard format account number from a customer’s internal reference number. This would involve using the reference number to form a 6 digit sort code and 8 digit account number.
- Ensuring that non-standard account numbers can be checked using a modulus checker*.
- In cases where a financial institution uses a collection account, the institution would have to allocate a reference number to their customer in addition to providing the customer with the collection account’s sort code and account number. The reference number is required because a collection account would not otherwise link the customer to their payment.
Mike Alexander, the chairman of the Payment Council Large Corporate User Forum and an independent Director on the Payment Council Board said:
“It’s a bugbear of all businesses, large and small, when they come across non-standard account numbers. Best Practice, if followed by as many parties as possible, could make a considerable improvement to the processing difficulties those businesses have and the amount of time spent on manually repairing data when it doesn’t work as it should.”
The Payments Council will evaluate the effectiveness of these guidelines as part of the triennial review of the National Payments Plan in 2011.Best practice guidelines on account number formats.
For further information, contact the Payments Council media team on 020 7638 5760 or email@example.com
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Payments Council is the organisation that sets strategy for UK payments. It has been established to ensure that UK payment systems and services meet the need of users, payment service providers and the wider economy. The Payments Council has three core objectives: to have a strategic vision for payments and lead the future development of co-operative payment services in the UK; to ensure payment systems are open, accountable and transparent; and to ensure the operational efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of payment services in the UK.
The Payments Council is a membership organisation funded by its members, with an independent chairman and four independent directors.
The National Payments Plan is the Payments Council’s landmark publication, which was launched in May 2008, and sets out a 10-year vision for UK payments together with the practical steps required for implementation.
A standard format account number must include:
A 6 digit sort code; and
An 8 digit account number; and
The account number must support a modulus check
*A modulus checker is a procedure which uses a mathematical algorithm to check the validity of account numbers for a sorting code. This allows organisations to check account details prior to submission to Bacs, drastically reducing payment and collection errors and delays.