If you are sending money to a person or business, and you are not using the services of a firm that is not a bank or building society, you better read on!
Here you will find what information the firm should give you, what you need to check to make sure your money arrives safely, and what your rights are if things go wrong.
First - check the firm
All UK-based firm that sends money for customers must be either authorised or registered by the FCA as a “payment institution”. If it uses agents, the FCA must also be given details of them. The bigger firms must be authorised by the FCA, while the smaller firms can choose to be registered instead of authorised. And this is an important for you, the punter, and difference.
“Authorised” means that the FCA checks that the firm is properly organised and run by suitable people who have not been convicted of financial crimes; has enough money behind it, and has proper arrangements in place to protect customers’ money if it gets into serious financial difficulty. This is known as “safeguarding“. If they use agents, the FCA also makes checks on them too.
“Registered” means that the FCA checks only that none of the people running the firm has been convicted of financial crimes; that it is in the UK, and if it is choosing to safeguard its customers’ money how it does so. The FCA does not make checks on any agents of the firm.
What is “safeguarding” your money?
An authorised firm must keep your money separate from the firm’s money. So if it gets into financial difficulty, your money will be safe and will be paid back to you if it is wound up. However, a registered firm does not have to safeguard your money, but can choose to do so.
What should you check?
You should check if the firm is authorised or registered? You’ll need to check the FCA Register – https://register.fca.org.uk – and search by either the firm (or agent) name or the registration number, which should be on its paperwork. Alternately you can call the FCA on 0207 066 1000.
What if it’s not on the FCA Register?
If a firm is not on the register there are two possible reasons. The company is either operating illegally or you shouldn’t use it, or it may be authorised in another EU country. This should be explained in its paperwork. The regulator in that country will have made similar checks to the FCA.
Call the FCA 0800 111 6768 FREE (freephone) or 0300 500 8082 from the UK, or +44 207 066 1000 from abroad to check whether it is authorised in another EU country.
Is your money safe?
If the firm is authorised, then the firm must make sure your money is safeguarded. If it is registered, then it can choose whether or not to safeguard your money. Call the FCA on 0207 066 1000 to check.
After you have handed the money over, the firm should give you (in writing) a reference for the payment, and confirmation of the cost, the exchange rate and how long the payment will take to get there. Do not give this information to anybody except the person or business you are sending the money to. Fraudsters sometimes try to get hold of this information to collect the money before the correct person or business can do so.
What can you do if things go wrong?
If you have a complaint about the service you receive, you should first contact the firm to give it a chance to sort out the problem. It must investigate your complaint and reply within eight weeks with a final response, or give reasons why it cannot give a final response. In the meantime it must keep you informed of progress in its investigation. If you are not satisfied with its response, you can make a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The firm should provide you details of this free service or you can call 0300 123 9123 or browse www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.