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With a direct debit, you authorise an organisation to automatically withdraw the invoice amount from your bank account. This often involves regularly recurring bills such as subscriptions, telephone, gas or electricity bills.

 This is also called a mandate.

How does it work exactly?

To open a direct debit, the organisation needs your signature. Without a signature, there is no valid mandate. Because you give your agreement in advance, your expenses can be paid automatically without you having to intervene. With a direct debit, the initiative for the payment no longer lies with you, but with the organisation that requests money from your account.

You can use a direct debit both for repeated payments (= a repeated direct debit; e.g. monthly or quarterly) and for a single payment (= a single collection). Direct debits can be used both nationally and internationally - between countries in the SEPA zone. In case of a European direct debit, it is the suppliers who manage your direct debit mandates.

SEPA is the abbreviation of Single Euro Payment Area. Thanks to the SEPA single standard, digital payments can proceed smoothly everywhere in Europe. Paying by card, transfer or direct debit: the same rules, procedures and rights apply throughout Europe.  SEPA has been adopted in the 27 Member States of the European Union, 3 countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and 6 non-EEA countries (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Vatican City). You can find a complete overview here.  SEPA only covers payments in euro, including payments in euro with some countries that are not part of the euro area (e.g. Sweden) and with countries that are not even part of the European Union but are part of the SEPA area (e.g. Switzerland, Norway and Monaco). Previously, each country had its own national standards for the execution of payments. The switch from national standards to the SEPA standard started in 2009 and ended in our country on 1 April 2014.

How can you cancel a direct debit?

If you want to cancel a direct debit, it is best to contact your supplier directly.

How exactly are you protected?

A European direct debit offers you the following protection:

  • If you do not agree with a certain payment that was made under a direct debit, you have eight weeks to ask your bank to refund the amount paid.
    • Please note: a direct debit request does not automatically mean that you will get your money back.
  • If you think that the direct debit was done wrongfully, i.e. without a valid mandate, you have up to 13 months to request a refund.
  • You can ask your bank to block companies or organisations that execute automatic payments with your account.
  • You can inform your bank of the maximum amount and/or frequency of automatic payments that a company or organisation can perform.

What to do in case of problems?

In case of problems, it is best to contact the customer service of the organisation where you have taken out the direct debit. If you do not get a satisfactory answer, you can either contact the Ombudsman of the sector concerned or you can file a complaint with the Complaints Bureau of the FPS Economy.