Comrs of Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank plc

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Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc
Court House of Lords
Decided 21 June 2006
Citation(s) [2006] UKHL 28
Case history
Prior action(s) [2004] EWCA Civ 1555, [2004] EWHC 122 (Comm)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Mance
Assumption of responsibility, Caparo test, negligent misstatement

Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc [2006] UKHL 28 is a leading English tort law case concerning negligent misstatement and pure economic loss.


Customs and Excise needed to freeze the bank account of a Barclays customer. By law, banks are required to comply with requests for freezing orders and are paid for the service. When it received the request, a Barclays employee replied that it had frozen the bank account. But it had not, and the customer proceeded to empty all of the money from the account. Customs and Excise sued Barclays for the amount that was lost. Barclays argued it had no duty of care, nor had it assumed responsibility.


Court of Appeal[edit]

Peter Gibson LJ, Longmore LJ, Lindsay LJ held that there was no duty and proposed that Hedley Byrne type assumption of responsibility should be subsumed into the threefold test from Caparo Industries plc v Dickman.

House of Lords[edit]

The House of Lords unanimously disapproved the Court of Appeal's decision, that "assumption of responsibility" was indistinct and subsumed into the law of negligence. It held, however, that in this case, because the bank was required by law to comply with the freezing order, there could not be said to have arisen any assumption of responsibility on Hedley Byrne grounds. Applying then the Caparo test, it was held to not be fair, just and reasonable to impose liability. The bank was therefore not required to reimburse Customs and Excise for the dissipated money.

See also[edit]



  • C Mitchell and P Mitchell, 'Negligence Liability for Pure Economic Loss' (2005) 121 LQR 194-200

External links[edit]