Direct debits – what they are

Direct debits allow debtors (payers) to make regular payments by debiting their payment account (for example, current account), by means of mandate previously given to the creditor (payees, usually a merchant, supplier of goods or service provider).

Through direct debits, debtors can make payments that result from durable contracts or are periodic in nature – for example, water, electricity, telephone, gas, insurance, house rent or instalments arising from the acquisition of goods on credit. Direct debits can also be used to make occasional payments.

Payment service providers (in most cases, banks) are not obliged to provide direct debit services to the payment account holder (payer/debtor and payee/creditor).


SEPA direct debits

Direct debits are implemented in a harmonised manner at European level through the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) payments scheme.

This scheme allows any customer (individual persons, companies and public administration bodies) located in the SEPA area to order and receive payments in euros by direct debit through a single account and according to the same rules.

The countries that make up the SEPA area are:

  • the 28 European Union Member States – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom;

  • Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (countries which, along with the aforementioned, constitute the European Economic Area);

  • Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican.


Price of direct debits

Debtors and creditors may only be charged the expenses invoiced by the respective payment service provider.

In most cases, the execution of direct debits is free for debtors.

In any case, there are legal restrictions on charges levied for cross-border direct debits within the European Economic Area, made in euros, Swedish kronor or Romanian lei.

These charges may not be higher than those charged by the payment service provider for equivalent national direct debits (of the same amount and in the same currency, with the same characteristics and of the same type), provided that creditor customers communicate the IBAN of the debtor’s payment account.

Thus, where charges for equivalent domestic operations are not provided for, the charging of charges associated with the implementation of cross-border direct debits is not allowed.