A Beginner’s Guide to SEPA Direct Debits

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WHAT IS A SEPA DIRECT DEBIT?

Essentially, a SEPA Direct Debit is much the same as a typical Direct Debit, but allows merchants to collect Euro-denominated payments from accounts in the 34 SEPA countries. With SEPA Direct Debits now being implemented in all eurozone countries, all Euro-denominated payments must be collected using the SEPA Direct Debit scheme. The scheme also runs in non-eurozone SEPA countries (including the UK) alongside national Direct Debit schemes, thus it is possible to collect direct debit payments through both schemes in these countries.

Like UK Direct Debit, SEPA Direct Debit is pull-based, so once a customer has authorised you to take the Direct Debits from their account, you’re in control of how much is collected and when.

Again, like UK Direct Debits, SEPA payments are made bank-to-bank without any input from card networks. Although SEPA does differentiate from UK Direct Debit in other significant points

  • Businesses and consumers are treated differently (more below).
  • Unlike UK Direct Debit, ALL SEPA transactions are in Euros, regardless of whether the relevant accounts are in Euros.
  • The bank details required for a SEPA transaction vary from those required in a UK Direct Debit transaction, with Service Users requiring a customer’s BIC and IBAN rather than their account number and sort code.
  • The chargeback period in a SEPA transaction is far more lenient, with payers able to get a refund for up to 13 months.
  • Several other implementation details of SEPA are different from the UK equivalent.

BUSINESSES AND CONSUMERS

SEPA Direct Debit can incorporate two greatly varying schemes, these are:

  • SEPA Core Direct Debit – For all payers who are not businesses wishing to complete a Direct Debit transaction.
  • SEPA B2B Direct Debit – For businesses wishing to collect Direct Debit payments from other businesses.

IN THE UK

The SEPA Direct Debit Scheme only affects Euro-denominated payments, so collections in GBP in the UK are unaffected, but since 31st October 2016, UK businesses collecting Euro-denominated payments were required to migrate to the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme.