herald

Sunday 25 September 2016

Irish Water's direct debit customers can get refund off banks

Water charge protesters (Tony Gavin)
Water charge protesters (Tony Gavin)

Irish Water customers can apply for an immediate "no-quibble" refund on their latest bill within eight weeks of making a direct debit payment.

As Government talks continue about the future of the disastrous water utility, it now appears that bills will be suspended while a commission is set up to examine the matter.

However, there has been confusion over whether refunds will be made to the estimated 928,000 households who have diligently paid their bills - many of whom fear they will be punished for being compliant by not getting their money back.

However, under the Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) banking rules, any customer can apply for a no-quibble refund on any direct debit within eight weeks of the payment leaving their account.

Irish banks must make the repayment without question.

The Direct Debit Sepa Refund applies under the Consumer Debtor Rights section of legislation.

The Irish Banking and Payments Federation website states: "Under Sepa Regulation 260-2012 consumers can request for a refund for any Sepa direct debit within eight weeks from the date on which the Sepa direct debit was debited from their account.

Protection

"Within an eight-week period, the bank must refund on a 'no-questions-asked' basis."

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank told the Herald: "The eight-week rule was introduced to give greater protection to customers when Sepa was introduced.

"A bank must make the refund, within their own procedures, but they cannot refuse to do it. It's no-quibble."

The enhanced consumer protection applying across all EU banks was introduced on February 1, 2014.

It allowed citizens to set up direct debits with countries in 27 member states and have their payments flowing as smoothly as in their home country.

However, the EU recognised the added challenges faced if something went wrong, and the rule was brought in to allow payments to stop, or be refunded, in the event of a dispute.

It would most commonly apply in the case of a subscription for a service which you no longer wanted, or believed wasn't supplying what was being charged for and were in dispute with the company.

To get a refund, ask your bank for the Direct Debit Sepa Refund Form (online or paper version), and the money will be returned, in most cases, the following day.

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