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Sec. 229.33 - Depositary bank's responsibility for returned checks and notices of nonpayment.


(a) Right to assert claim. (1) A paying bank or returning bank may be liable to a depositary bank under § 229.38 for failing to return a check in an expeditious manner only if the depositary bank has arrangements in place such that the paying bank or returning bank could return a returned check to the depositary bank electronically, directly or indirectly, by commercially reasonable means.

(2) For purposes of paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the depositary bank that has asserted a claim has the burden of proof for demonstrating that the depositary bank’s arrangements meet the standard of paragraph (a)(1).

Official Interpretation

XIX. Section 229.33 Depositary Bank's Responsibility for Returned Checks and Notices of Nonpayment

A. 229.33(a) Right To Assert Claim

1. This paragraph sets forth the circumstances under which a paying bank or returning bank may be liable to a depositary bank for failing to return a check in an expeditious manner in accordance with §§229.31(b) and 229.32(b) respectively.

2. This paragraph does not require a depositary bank to establish arrangements to accept returned checks electronically, either directly from the paying bank or indirectly from a returning bank. Most depositary banks, however, have arrangements in place to accept returned checks electronically. (See commentary to §§229.31(b) and 229.32(b) for examples of direct and indirect arrangements).

3. The depositary bank has the burden of proof for demonstrating that its arrangements for accepting returned checks electronically are commercially reasonable. The standard allows for case-by-case flexibility and can change over time to reflect market practices. The standard is intended to prevent a depositary bank from establishing electronic return arrangements that are very limited in scope or that provide unreasonable barriers to return such that, in practice, the depositary bank would accept only a small proportion of its returns electronically.

(b) Acceptance of electronic returned checks and electronic notices of nonpayment. A depositary bank’s agreement with the transferor bank governs the terms under which the depositary bank will accept electronic returned checks and electronic written notices of nonpayment.

Official Interpretation

B. 229.33(b) Acceptance of Electronic Returned Checks and Electronic Notices of Nonpayment

1. A depositary bank may agree directly with a returning bank or a paying bank (or through clearinghouse rules) to accept electronic returned checks. Likewise, a depositary bank may agree directly with a paying bank (or through clearinghouse rules) to accept electronic written notices of nonpayment. (See §§229.2(ggg), 229.30(b), and 229.31(c) and commentary thereto). The depositary bank's acceptance of electronic returned checks and electronic written notices of nonpayment is governed by the depositary bank's agreement with the banks sending the electronic returned check or electronic written notice of nonpayment to the depositary bank (or through the applicable clearinghouse rules). The agreement normally would specify the electronic address or receipt point at which the depositary bank accepts returned checks and written notices of nonpayment electronically, as well as what constitutes receipt of the returned checks and written notices of nonpayment. The agreement also may specify whether electronic returned checks must be separated from electronic checks sent for forward collection.

(c) Acceptance of paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment. (1) A depositary bank shall accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment during its banking day—

(i) At a location, if any, at which presentment of paper checks for forward collection is requested by the depositary bank; and

(ii) (A) At a branch, head office, or other location consistent with the name and address of the bank in its indorsement on the check;

(B) If no address appears in the indorsement, at a branch or head office associated with the routing number of the bank in its indorsement on the check; or

(C) If no routing number or address appears in its indorsement on the check, at any branch or head office of the bank.

(2) A depositary bank may require that paper returned checks be separated from paper forward collection checks.

Official Interpretation

C. 229.33(c) Acceptance of Paper Returned Checks and Paper Notices of Nonpayment

1. This paragraph states where the depositary bank is required to accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment during its banking day. (These locations differ from locations at which a depositary bank must accept oral notices or electronic notices. (See §229.33(b) and (d) and commentary thereto). This paragraph is derived from UCC 3-111, which specifies that presentment for payment may be made at the place specified in the instrument or, if there is none, at the place of business of the party to pay. In the case of returned checks, the depositary bank does not print the check and can only specify the place of “payment” of the returned check in its indorsement.

2. The paragraph specifies four locations at which the depositary bank must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment:

a. The depositary bank must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment at any location at which it requests presentment of forward collection paper checks, such as a processing center. A depositary bank does not request presentment of forward collection checks at a branch of the bank merely by paying checks presented over the counter.

b. i. If the depositary bank indorsement states the name and address of the depositary bank, it must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment at the branch, head office, or other location, such as a processing center, indicated by the address. If the address is too general to identify a particular location, then the depositary bank must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment at any branch or head office consistent with the address. If, for example, the address is “New York, New York,” each branch in New York City must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment. Accordingly, a depositary bank may limit the locations at which it must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment by specifying a branch or head office in its indorsement.

ii. If no address appears in the depositary bank's indorsement, the depositary bank must accept paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment at any branch or head office associated with the depositary bank's routing number. The offices associated with the routing number of a bank are found in American Bankers Association Key to Routing Numbers, published by an agent of the American Bankers Association, which lists a city and state address for each routing number.

iii. If no routing number or address appears in its indorsement, the depositary bank must accept a paper returned check at any branch or head office of the bank. Section 229.35 and applicable industry standards require that the indorsement contain a routing number, a name, and a location. Consequently paragraphs (c)(1)(ii)(B) and (C) of this section apply only where the depositary bank has failed to comply with the indorsement requirement.

3. For ease of processing, a depositary bank may require that returning banks or paying banks returning checks to it separate returned checks from forward collection checks being presented.

(d) Acceptance of oral notices of nonpayment. A depositary bank shall accept oral notices of nonpayment during its banking day—

(1) At the telephone number indicated in the indorsement; and

(2) At any other number held out by the bank for receipt of notice of nonpayment.

Official Interpretation

D. 229.33(d) Acceptance [of] Oral Notices of Nonpayment

In the case of telephone notices, the depositary bank may not refuse to accept notices at the telephone numbers identified in this section, but may transfer calls or use a recording device.

(e) Payment. (1) A depositary bank shall pay the returning bank or paying bank returning the check to it for the amount of the check prior to the close of business on the depositary bank’s banking day on which it received the check (“payment date”) by—

(i) Debit to an account of the depositary bank on the books of the returning bank or paying bank;

(ii) Cash;

(iii) Wire transfer; or

(iv) Any other form of payment acceptable to the returning bank or paying bank.

(2) The proceeds of the payment must be available to the returning bank or paying bank in cash or by credit to an account of the returning bank or paying bank on or as of the payment date. If the payment date is not a banking day for the returning bank or paying bank or the depositary bank is unable to make the payment on the payment date, payment shall be made by the next day that is a banking day for the returning bank or paying bank. These payments are final when made.

Official Interpretation

E. 229.33(e) Payment

1. As discussed in the commentary to §229.32(e), under this regulation a paying bank or returning bank does not obtain credit for a returned check by charge-back but by, in effect, “presenting” the returned check to the depositary bank. This paragraph imposes an obligation to “pay” a returned check that is similar to the obligation to pay a forward collection check by a paying bank, except that the depositary bank may not return a returned check for which it is the depositary bank. Also, certain means of payment, such as remittance drafts, may be used only by agreement.

2. The depositary bank must pay for a returned check by the close of the banking day on which it received the returned check. The day on which a returned check is received is determined pursuant to UCC 4-108, which permits the bank to establish a cut-off hour, generally not earlier than 2 p.m. (local time of the depositary bank), and treat checks received after that hour as being received on the next banking day. If the depositary bank is unable to make payment to a returning bank or paying bank on the banking day that it receives the returned check, because the returning bank or paying bank is closed for a holiday or because the time when the depositary bank received the check is after the close of Fedwire, e.g., west coast banks with late cut-off hours, payment may be made on the next banking day of the bank receiving payment.

3. Payment must be made so that the funds are available for use by the bank returning the check to the depositary bank on the day the check is received by the depositary bank. For example, a depositary bank meets this requirement if it sends a wire transfer to the returning bank or paying bank on the day it receives the returned check, even if the returning bank or paying bank has closed for the day. A wire transfer should indicate the purpose of the payment.

4. The depositary bank may use a net settlement arrangement to settle for a returned check. Banks with net settlement agreements could net the appropriate credits and debits for returned checks with the accounting entries for forward collection checks if they so desired. If, for purposes of establishing additional controls or for other reasons, the banks involved desired a separate settlement for returned checks, a separate net settlement agreement could be established.

5. The bank sending the returned check to the depositary bank may agree to accept payment at a later date if, for example, it does not believe that the amount of the returned check or checks warrants the costs of same-day payment. Thus, a returning bank or paying bank may agree to accept payment through an ACH credit or debit transfer that settles the day after the returned check is received instead of a wire transfer that settles on the same day.

6. This paragraph and this subpart do not affect the depositary bank's right to recover a provisional settlement with its nonbank customer for a check that is returned. (See also §§229.19(c)(2)(ii), 229.33(h), and 229.35(b)).

(f) Misrouted returned checks and written notices of nonpayment. If a bank receives a returned check or written notice of nonpayment on the basis that it is the depositary bank, and the bank determines that it is not the depositary bank with respect to the check or notice, it shall either promptly send the returned check or notice to the depositary bank directly or by means of a returning bank agreeing to handle the returned check or notice, or send the check or notice back to the bank from which it was received.

Official Interpretation

F. 229.33(f) Misrouted Returned Checks and Written Notices of Nonpayment

1. This paragraph permits a bank receiving a check or written notice of nonpayment (either in paper form or electronic form) on the basis that it is the depositary bank to send the misrouted returned check or written notice of nonpayment to the correct depositary bank, if it can identify the correct depositary bank, either directly or through a returning bank agreeing to handle the check or written notice of nonpayment. When sending a returned check under this paragraph, the bank receiving the misrouted check is acting as a returning bank. Alternatively, the bank receiving the misrouted returned check or written notice of nonpayment must send the check or notice back to the bank from which it was received.

2. In sending a misrouted returned check, the bank to which the returned check was misrouted (the incorrect depositary bank) could receive settlement from the bank to which it sends the misrouted check under §229.33(f) (the correct depositary bank, a returning bank that agrees to handle it, or the bank from which the misrouted check was received). The correct depositary bank would be required to pay for the returned check under §229.33(e), and any other bank to which the check is sent under this paragraph would be required to settle for the check as a returning bank under §229.32(e). The bank to which the returned check was misrouted is required to act promptly, i.e., within its midnight deadline. This paragraph does not affect a bank's duties under §229.35(b).

(g) Charges. A depositary bank may not impose a charge for accepting and paying checks being returned to it.

Official Interpretation

G. 229.33(g) Charges

1. This paragraph prohibits a depositary bank from charging the equivalent of a presentment fee for returned checks. A returning bank, however, may charge a fee for handling returned checks. If the returning bank receives a mixed cash letter of returned checks, which includes some checks for which the returning bank also is the depositary bank, the fee may be applied to all the returned checks in the cash letter. In the case of a sorted cash letter containing only returned checks for which the returning bank is the depositary bank, however, no fee may be charged.

(h) Notification to customer. If the depositary bank receives a returned check, notice of nonpayment, or notice of recovery under § 229.35(b), it shall send or give notice to its customer of the facts by midnight of the banking day following the banking day on which it received the returned check, notice of nonpayment, or notice of recovery, or within a longer reasonable time.

Official Interpretation

H. 229.33(h) Notification to Customer

1. This paragraph requires a depositary bank to notify its customer of nonpayment upon receipt of a returned check or notice of nonpayment. Notice also must be given if a depositary bank receives a notice of recovery under §229.35(b). A bank that chooses to provide the notice required by §229.33(h) in writing may send the notice by email or facsimile if the bank sends the notice to the email address or facsimile number specified by the customer for that purpose. The notice to the customer required under this paragraph also may satisfy the notice requirement of §229.13(g) if the depositary bank invokes the reasonable-cause exception of §229.13(e) due to the receipt of a notice of nonpayment, provided the notice meets all the requirements of §229.13(g).

(i) Depositary bank without accounts. The requirements of this section with respect to notices of nonpayment do not apply to checks deposited in a depositary bank that does not maintain accounts.

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