Direct Debit


It’s never an enjoyable situation when a company or a charity collects the wrong amount or collects a Direct Debit on the wrong day. In many cases those relatively ‘small’ amounts collected a day or two earlier than expected are a little inconvenient and leave a bitter taste in the mouth, but generally they will pass by pretty much un-noticed. [although they re a clear breach of the Direct Debit Scheme Rules]

In today’s ‘always switched on’ world where our comments can reach thousands of people in minutes there is nowhere to hide should you breach the Direct Debit Scheme Rules. This past week has seen twitter users share the news about the charity Concern Worldwide collecting up 100 times the agreed amount from their supporters bank accounts. Some reports suggest that up to 25,000 supporters have had the incorrect amount taken from their bank account Third Sector News Article.

Concern Worldwide were quick to provide an update to their donors via social media and an apology on their web site – Concern Worldwide Apology. I have no doubt this is an extremely stressful time for those donors that signed up to support the great work that Concern Worldwide do. I am also aware of the issues that the charity now face with regards to sorting this issue out and minimising the number of donors that will result in cancelling their Direct Debit and walking away from supporting this charity.

Running a quick search in Twitter shows that this mistake is not only embarrassing for the Charity but will no doubt lose them regular donors as they cancel their support to the charity by cancelling their Direct Debit.

How Did This Happen?

Concern Worldwide have shared on their website that this was an admin mistake and not a banking issue, the extent of the ‘Admin Issue’ is unknown. Depending on the systems and processes they use the mistake could have been a data file structural change which moved the decimal place or someone creating the file that was not familiar with the process [it was a bank holiday weekend]. Regardless of ‘how’ the Direct Debit was created it does seem that the final collection amount was not checked before the button was pressed before the file was sent to Bacs. A quick eyes on the file would have shown that the collection value seemed a lot higher than normal.

Are You Protected

Those that use Direct Debit [regardless if it’s a donation or paying your gas bill] you are protected automatically by the Direct Debit Guarantee – in short this means if you believe a Direct Debit has been collected in error you must speak to your bank and request an ‘indemnity claim’ [the bank will require some more information from you], but you will get a refund if you are not at fault.

This is not the first time this type of error has happened, some will remember back to New Years Eve 2005 when Greenpeace had a very similar issue BBC News.

Please remember that Direct Debit Scheme rules are in place to protect you from these types of mistakes / errors.