Lost opportunity no grounds for compensation

Telegraphic transfers,
Alex needed to send $US20,000 as quickly as possible to a business partner in London to make an investment. She went to her bank, and a teller helped her complete the paperwork for a telegraphic transfer. The teller said the transfer would take three to five days.
August 2011

Seven days later, the money had still not arrived. Alex contacted the bank, which said it would look into the matter. Three days later, the bank discovered it had used the wrong code during the transaction. The bank corrected the error, and the money arrived a day later.

Alex said she had given the bank the correct codes, and the delay had resulted in her missing out on a $US9,730 profit from her investment. She wanted compensation for that amount.

The bank accepted that its computer system had selected the wrong code, but said the teller had given only an indication of when the money would arrive. The bank gave no guarantee because the transfer time could depend on the receiving bank and any intermediary banks involved in the transfer.

The bank said it would not compensate her for the lost profit, but offered $250 as a goodwill gesture. Alex complained to us.

Our investigation

We explained to Alex the difference between direct loss and the loss of an opportunity. One was linked and quantifiable, the other indirect and capable only of estimating. Moreover, we did not have the power to try to quantify the loss arising from a missed opportunity. Our rules allowed us to look only at direct financial losses. We could, however, award compensation for any inconvenience the bank's delay might have caused.

As an aside, we pointed out that Alex might equally have made a bigger profit as a result of the delay – and she would not have complained to us about that.


Alex accepted the bank’s offer of $250.

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