A SofortÜberweisung “feature” – cancelling transactions without noticing the merchant

During the past years a new company, called SOFORT AG, wants to introduce a new way of payments. It offers a product called SofortÜberweisung, which provides way lower fees than normal credit cards transfer and the merchant can be “pretty sure”, that (s)he receives the payments. It works the following way: The customer is redirected to the SOFORT AG’s website, where (s)he is requested to enter the banking details to carry out a wire transfer. (Through a standard interface in Germany based on FinTS/HBCI protocol.) After making sure that the customer has enough credit on the account and the transfer has been accepted by the bank, the merchant gets a confirmation about the transaction.

A graphical overview about the functionality of Sofortüberweisung. Taken from: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofortüberweisung


However here comes the trick, accepting and executing a transaction are two different things. This means that the wire transfers can be cancelled after ordering the product, however the merchant is not notified. One bank, where such cancellation is possible is the HypoVereinsbank. I am pretty sure that other banks also allow this, however I have not had the time to test them. Unfortunately I have not found any information about this on SOFORT AG’s website and many merchants are not aware that there is a chance that the payment will never arrive. (Update: Meanwhile I had a call with SOFORT AG, and I was told that the merchants are informed about this possibility in the contract and they have an “insurance package” against cases like this.)

The possibility of cancelling SofortÜberweisung transaction using the “löschen” button.

This possibility allows misuse of the SofortÜberweisung systems and the merchants can be betrayed up to a several thousand of Euros. (Some possible examples: imagine converting currency at TransferWise or getting first class tickets at Lufthansa, without payment.)

Although such misuse happens very rarely, I strongly advise the merchants to hold back the product (especially expensive products) until the wire transfer has been credited on the account.