Cheques clear through an image-based cheque clearing system that speeds up cheque processing significantly for customers across the UK. This has replaced the paper based clearing system. Following the implementation of the Image Clearing System (ICS) and complete migration across the whole of the UK in August 2019, the BBCCL no longer has responsibility for the oversight of cheque and paper credit clearings in Northern Ireland. BBCCL will, in the near future, be wound up.
Any queries cheque imaging should now be directed to the relevant bank(s) or to the new ICS governance body Pay.UK, which can be contacted by email: email@example.com or by phone: 020 3217 8200. Information about cheque imaging can also be found here.
History of BBCCL
The Company was formed in May 2007 as a means of formalising existing rules and standards for sterling paper clearings. Previously these rules were monitored on an ad-hoc basis by the Belfast Bankers’ Clearing Committee, whose members then comprised the four main clearing banks in Northern Ireland; namely Danske Bank (the trading name for Northern Bank), Ulster Bank, First Trust and Bank of Ireland. Other banks could have access to the NI clearing by formal application or through an agency arrangement with one of these four banks.
The reason the Clearing Committee structure was replaced by the Belfast Bankers’ Clearing Company Ltd was a consequence of an investigation conducted by the Competition Commission into the personal current account market in Northern Ireland during 2005 and 2006. This investigation arose following a ‘super complaint’ from the Consumer Council to establish whether consumers in NI were being offered fair and competitive terms and conditions, in comparison to consumers in Great Britain. Part of the investigation included a review of the cheque clearing arrangements, which are crucial to the operation of current accounts. The review found that the Clearing Committee-administered system in NI did not have a constitution or criteria for membership. It was proposed that the NI banks should adopt the rules and access criteria used by the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company (C&CCC), which governed the paper clearing system in Great Britain. Due to some fundamental operational differences between the NI and GB arrangements, e.g. the use of the Interbank Data Exchange (IBDE) network in GB to supplement the exchange of the paper cheques and method of daily settlement, the NI banks proposed that the NI clearing system should remain separate from the C&CCC. Accordingly it was agreed that the Belfast Bankers’ Clearing Company Ltd would be formed to provide formal governance of the paper clearing arrangements in NI and to define access criteria. That arrangement no longer pertains since the introduction of the ICS.