SEPA and IBAN discrimination
SEPA stands for Single Euro Payments Area. The aim of SEPA is to ensure that everyone can pay across Europe. So you can make payments abroad just as fast, easily and safely as in your own country. Does a firm or organisation not accept your foreign bank account number? If this is the case, you could be the victim of IBAN discrimination.
Thanks to SEPA, everyone across Europe can make payments in euros. SEPA offers a single efficient infrastructure for all non-cash payments in euros using uniform standards for accounts (IBAN), European credit transfers and European direct debits. Within SEPA you can pay as easily and safely as in your own country. This means there is no distinction between domestic and cross-border non-cash payments. To get where we are now, the technical, legal and commercial barriers between the payment markets of participating countries have been removed since the establishment of SEPA in 2008. The European Central Bank (ECB), De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and other national central banks in Europe continue to promote the further integration of and competition in the European payment market. SEPA has been enshrined in law in the European SEPA Regulation for European Economic Area (EEA) countries.
SEPA does not only apply to countries that have adopted the euro. There are 36 European countries participating in SEPA, including some countries that are not part of the euro area, the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA), such as the United Kingdom and Norway.
Do Dutch businesses or other organisations reject your payment account number from a European Economic Area (EEA) country? If this is the case, you could be the victim of IBAN discrimination.
What is IBAN discrimination?
Within the European Economic Area (EEA), no distinction may be made based on the country of origin of payment accounts. If this does happen, however, it is considered IBAN discrimination.
IBAN discrimination is not allowed under the European SEPA Regulation (EU 260/2012). If a payer or payee accepts a Dutch IBAN for credit transfers or direct debits, then they must also accept IBANs from all other countries in the EEA.
Reporting IBAN discrimination
If you fail to reach an agreement with the business or organisation, please report this to us. Your complaint may be relevant to the performance of our task as a supervisory authority. You can use this form to report IBAN discrimination (add link). Please provide documentary evidence showing that your IBAN was not accepted. Also submit a copy of your complaint to the business or organisation and of any response you received.
Our registration centre for IBAN discrimination will then investigate your report.
We will inform you whether or not we will follow up on your report. Not all cases will actually qualify as IBAN discrimination. See the examples in the list of frequently asked questions. We will inform you once we have completed our investigation. Our statutory obligation of confidentiality prevents us from providing information about how we deal with your report or what its status is. We have a statutory obligation of confidentiality with respect to confidential supervisory information. Confidential information collected in the context of our supervisory task on compliance with the SEPA Regulation is subject to the obligation of confidentiality under Section 1:89 of the Financial Supervision Act (Wet op het financieel toezicht – Wft).
Consequences of IBAN discrimination
In the case of IBAN discrimination, we may impose an order subject to penalty or a fine. We comply with the privacy rules of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when dealing with your report.
What businesses and government institutions can do
Companies and government institutions must set up their administrative IT systems – such as web forms, accounting systems and customer systems – to enable the processing of IBANs from other EEA countries. If their systems are not yet set up for this they may process foreign IBANs manually, for example through their customer service or help desk. Offering multiple payment methods may also help to prevent IBAN issues.
Frequently asked questions
First, you should lodge a complaint with the company or organisation in question. If you are unable to reach agreement, you can report your complaint to our registration centre for IBAN discrimination.
No. The ban only covers transfers or direct debits between payment accounts. Under the SEPA Regulation, IBAN discrimination is prohibited when transferring money between payment accounts. The SEPA Regulation does not apply to transfers from a savings account to a payment account, or vice versa.
No. Payment requests are optional services. Optional services are not covered by the SEPA Regulation, since they are not necessary or mandatory to make transfers and direct debits for which providing an IBAN is required.
Yes. The European Court of Justice confirmed in a ruling in September 2019 that companies and organisations must accept foreign IBANs even if a customer is not a resident of the country in which the company or organisation is based.
No, an employer's requirement that wages must be paid only to a Dutch payment account is a form of IBAN discrimination. The SEPA regulation stipulates that a payer may not require a payment account to be located in a specific Member State. The European Union website has more information on this topic.
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