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Commercial banking law: bank customer relationship

Module information>

Academic Direction
UCL, Queen Mary University of London
Modes of Study

As its title suggests, this course deals with the English law and various features of the relationship between banks and their customers. What rights and duties do banks and their customers have? Banking is fundamental to any developed economy, banks receive deposit which they lend out and they act as intermediaries in payments. The first issue we need to consider is ‘What is a bank?’ it may be easy to recognise but rather hard to define. Must a business have certain features and do certain things before we can call it a bank? What are those things? Why aren’t terms like ‘bank’, ‘banking’ and ‘customer’ clearly defined? As we’ll discover, one reason is that the nature of banking changes rapidly. We’ll also examine other issues, like ‘what are the terms of a banking contract?’ and how these questions are not as easily answered as we might think. The course also looks beyond these contractual rights and duties, to money and payment systems, questioning each term in detail.

Module A: Banks and customers


  • What is a bank and who is a bank customer?
  • The contract: obligations of parties, significance of the mandate, termination of the contract, variation, proper law of the contract
  • Duty of confidentiality owed by a bank to its customers and the circumstances in which the duty can, or must, be breached

Module B: Duty of care, fiduciary duty, constructive trust and undue influence


  • A bank’s duty of care: application and scope of duty
  • Fiduciary obligations: when does bank become a fiduciary and how can it limit or exclude its obligations?
  • Constructive trust: when does liability as a constructive trustee arise?
  • Undue influence: types of undue influence, how can a bank protect its transactions from challenge on the grounds of undue influence?
  • Constructive trust: when does liability as a constructive trustee arise?
  • Customer’s duty of care

Module C: Accounts, money, payment and fund transfers


  • What is money, how is its transfer conceptualised legally? Chattel and bank money
  • What is payment and how is it made?
  • Credit and debit transfers
  • Clearing and settlement systems
  • Legal relationships

Accounts and dispute resolution

  • Accounts: types of accounts and their implications
  • Dealing with complaints: Banking Codes, Financial Services Ombudsman Service

Module D: Cheques and payment cards



  • What is a cheque, the obligations of, and defences available to, paying and collecting banks

Payment cards and recovering mistaken payments

  • Payment cards: debit cards, credit cards, charge cards, digital cash cards, etc.
  • Contractual relationships
  • Consumer Credit Act
  • Recovering mistaken payments


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


It is strongly recommended that you attempt the modules in order.

How to apply

You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • Banking and Finance Law
  • Commercial and Corporate Law
  • Financial Services Law
  • International Business Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.