Payment by direct debit

With a direct debit, you authorise an organisation (= a mandate) to automatically withdraw the invoice amount from your bank account. This often involves regularly recurring bills such as subscriptions, telephone, gas or electricity bills, but it can also apply to one-time invoices.


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.

In het geval van een Europese domiciliëring zijn het de leveranciers die je domiciliëringsmandaten beheren en niet je bank. Banken hebben een uitvoerende functie en doen geen controle op de correctheid van de aangeboden inning vanwege de leverancier. Voor eventuele vragen rond een domiciliering neem je dus best contact op met de leverancier van je diensten of producten. 


How can you cancel a direct debit?


If you want to cancel a direct debit, it's best to directly contact your supplier. While your bank can block the collection, this doesn't mean that any debt you owe to the supplier is waived. Therefore, always get in touch with the supplier if you wish to cancel your direct debit.


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.



What is a valid mandate? Show less

Each mandate must compulsorily contain the following information:

  • The word "SEPA"

  • "European Direct Debit" or "European Direct Debit B2B"

  • the required legal clauses of the involved scheme (including the notice of the right to a refund in the CORE scheme and the absence of that right in the B2B scheme)

  • name and full address (+ country) of the account holder (debtor)

  • name and full address (+ country) of the creditor

  • creditor identification

  • debtor's IBAN (BIC optional from February 1, 2016)

  • reason for the underlying contract and description

  • type of payment (one-time or recurring)

  • date and place of signature

  • signature of the account holder (debtor).

The choice of layout is optional, but the content is mandatory; furthermore, all data must be indicated on the front side.

What are my rights if I haven't signed or confirmed a mandate? What can I do if I have been wrongly debited? Show less

If you disagree with a specific payment made through a direct debit, you have 8 weeks to request your bank to refund the paid amount. Your bank will reimburse you and recover the funds from the supplier's bank.

Please note: requesting a refund doesn't nullify any debt you might owe to the supplier if you've already received services or products.

If you believe that the direct debit was made without a valid mandate, you have up to 13 months to request a refund.

Does my debt expire if I reclaim my direct debit? Show less

No, when you reclaim a direct debit, your debt to the supplier does not expire. An outstanding debt will always need to be settled, regardless of the direct debit being reclaimed.

If my supplier goes bankrupt, can I reclaim the advances I paid via direct debit? Show less

The legislative framework provides consumer protection to equip customers against potential misuse by the creditor.

For this reason, the customer has the right to reclaim their direct debit up to 8 weeks after the collection.

Please note: There still remains an outstanding debt that will need to be settled. The creditor's bank must inform the receiver of the potential refunds. To recover the outstanding debt, a receiver may contact the customer, potentially incurring additional costs.

If my supplier goes bankrupt, can I cancel my direct debit to stop the payment of advances? Show less

To cancel a direct debit, the customer needs to get in touch with the creditor. The bank does not intervene in this process. The management of mandates is entirely within the control of the creditor. In the case of bankruptcy, the customer should contact the appointed curator for such matters.

However, the legislative framework does allow banks to offer the option of blocking a direct debit. This prevents the creditor from automatically collecting funds. For this, the customer should contact their bank.

Please note: Regardless, there remains an outstanding debt that will need to be settled. The creditor's bank must inform the receiver of any potential refunds. To recover the outstanding debt, a receiver may contact the customer, potentially incurring additional costs.



What are your rights as a consumer regarding direct debits?

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