Gone are the days of traditional banking, where people needed a bank for doing any significant transaction, unless and until they consciously decide to use cash only and stay out-of-the-way.[i] Nowadays nowhere in India can we see people standing in a queue for checking their bank balance or for transferring their money from one account to another. Any financial transaction can be done from any part of the world to anyone, that too at any time without having to wait for the bank to open. Despite all these goods, the digital banking has also conferred on us, unaccustomed difficulties. On a day to day basis people are confronted with issues like fraudulent, unauthorized transactions, their money being lost astray in the cyber space and lots more. Among these, this composition will deal with the issue of an account being credited or debited multiple times for a single transaction.
The issue at hand:
An account is credited means, it has been deposited with some amount. On the contrary, if an amount is said to be debited in an account, it means that the amount debited has been withdrawn from that account. In short, credits are money coming into an account whereas debits are money going out of the account. An account may be credited and debited, many times a day, in the course of transactions. One should not forget that there are two sides to every transaction. During a transaction, when an account is credited with some amount, the same amount of money would have been debited from another account. One could even argue that for an account to be credited, some other account must have been debited. This is because the same money flows and gets accounted for two sides of the transaction.
The issue at hand is an account being credited or debited multiple times for a single transaction. There is an instance where a person, ‘A’ needs to pay Rs 100 to another person, ‘B’ in exchange of the goods that he bought from ‘B’. In order to complete this transaction, it is necessary that ‘A’ credits the account of ‘B’ with Rs 100. At this situation, there is a possibility that ‘A’ credits the account of ‘B’ two times, erroneously or due to any misconception, thereby adding an amount of Rs 200 in B’s account. This possibility creates the issue of an account being credited or debited multiple times for a single transaction, as it puts ‘A’ in a position to loose money unnecessarily more than the worth of what he purchased from ‘B’.
When a person is confronted with similar issue as that of ‘A’, there are no provisions of law, which will come straight away to the person’s rescue. But it does not mean that the person who lost his money cannot do anything about this. He is morally entitled to claim that quantum of money, which he credited to another person erroneously, leaving the credited amount of money over which another person has a legal right, emanating mostly by virtue of an implied contract of sale. This right to claim erroneously credited amount of money is due to the doctrine of Unjust Enrichment.[ii]
It says that if a person obtains a benefit from another by chance at the expense of that another, which is unfair and unjustifiable or that the person enriched has not paid for such enrichment, then such unjustly enriched person must legally return the unfairly kept benefits.[iii]
What can be done?
By virtue of unjust enrichment, it is sure that the aggrieved person will get remedy. The first thing that the aggrieved person should do is to take a printout of the account statement of the person (or company), to whom his money has been double credited. The following are the ways in which such remedies could be sought in each of the case.
1. If it is evident from the account statement that his money has been double credited in that account, he could notify the same to account holder and ask him to reimburse his money, which is exceeding the worth of products or service that he availed from him. In most of the cases, the other person involved will issue a cheque to the aggrieved person for reimbursing the aggrieved person’s money.
2. In case if the other person refuses to reimburse the aggrieved person, he can be sued before any Civil Court on the grounds of the doctrine of unjust enrichment.[iv] If the other person is a company, it could be sued before the District Consumer Forum. The aggrieved person will receive his quantum of money credited to the other person’s account by misconception, in the form of compensation.
3. The next case is where, his money will not be found to be double credited in the account statement of the person to whom his money has been double credited. In this scenario the aggrieved person has no other option except to approach his bank and state the particulars, by providing his account statement’s printout showing that his account has been debited twice for a service or item that was purchased only once. After this, the aggrieved party’s bank will intimate the same to the other person’s bank and collect the cheque from them on behalf of its customers.
The present issue could not be certainly taken as an advantage by the supplier of service or goods, which had ensued due to the aggrieved person’s misconception or fallacy. In order to address the issue of an account being credited or debited multiple times for a single transaction, a law based on the principle of unjust enrichment should be passed. Further the banks should follow the ‘pay first’ principle in case the issue comes before a court. Hence by overcoming the shortcomings like inadequacy of laws and banks not taking responsibility to reimburse the aggrieved person, this issue could be scrupulously avoided.[v] In general the banks, who are the stronger players, by being accountable to the consumers, who are weaker payers, will repose confidence to the consumers on the Digital Banking System.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje