- Advance Notice, Direct Debit, Direct Debit Guarantee
- Advance Notice, Bacs, DD Resilience, Direct Debit
- 05, MAY 2020
Offices closed? Unable to post Advance Notice? What now?
Advance Notice Problems: Are you unable to post your Advance Notices or Direct Debit Instructions? Are your mailing houses & offices closed? Read on for some help & advice:
Blog by Sarah Cottee, Training Manager.
Due to current restrictions caused by COVID-19 lockdown some service users are struggling to send out their Advance Notices or Direct Debit Instructions. This is an issue! Providing Advance Notice is a cornerstone of the Direct Debit Scheme and an important responsibility for Service Users. Failure to comply with scheme rules regarding advance notice could result in failed collections and an increase in refunds (Indemnity Claims). In turn this could have an impact on customer relationships as well as your organisations cash flow so it’s important to get it right!
1. WHAT IS ‘ADVANCE NOTICE’?
Advance Notice is the method by which the service user gives notice to the payer (the person paying the Direct Debit) before the Direct Debit is collected. Advance Notice should also be given when any changes are made e.g. to the amount / collection date or frequency of the Direct Debit collection. In addition, Advance Notice may be required if the reference or Service User’s contact information has changed.
2. WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD AN ADVANCE NOTICE CONTAIN?
An Advance Notice must always contain the following details:
- Direct Debit Reference
- Amount to be debited
- Collection Date (date, month and year)
- Frequency (e.g. if you set your payer up on a payment plan and collect the same amount each month then you must include the frequency)
- Service User Contact Details – so the payer can contact you with any queries – this can include telephone number and/ or email address.
3. HOW MUCH ADVANCE NOTICE DO I HAVE TO PROVIDE?
Advance Notice must be provided to the payer before any collections are taken from an account. The length of the advance notice depends on what has been agreed with the sponsoring bank. If you are unsure what time period your organisation has, you can check the information contained within your Direct Debit Guarantee as it has to state this time period. Typically, the default period is 10 working days. It is possible however to request a shorter time period from your sponsoring bank – for example 3 working days. If this is agreed your Direct Debit Guarantee should reflect this. If you operate a paperless direct debit process or are sending out advance notices electronically then you can send them out a lot faster so you could consider reducing the Advance Notice period.
4. How else can I send advance notice if I can’t use post at the moment?
A lot of service users still send out their advance notices via the post but at the moment are struggling to do so as offices or mailing houses are closed. Don’t forget – you don’t have to send advance notice via the post, you can send them using the following alternatives:
- Electronic – e.g. by email or via a secure website. It is possible to email your payer advance notice by sending a letter as an attachment to an email. Alternatively, you could email out an invoice. If using a secure website you can make the letter or invoice available on the website. The payer can then be emailed or sent an SMS (text message) to advise that the information is available on the website. Sending SMS (text messages) as notice is very popular with mobile phone providers unsurprisingly, and there is nothing stopping other organisations from doing it this way. Just remember you must inform your sponsoring bank if you are making these changes as they must give you approval. The text message may say something along the lines of “your April invoice is now ready and will be collected on 01/05/2020, for further details please log onto our app/ website to view your bill”.
- Orally – usually on an ad hoc basis. This isn’t suitable for providing a schedule of collections. Note: Transcripts of calls aren’t accepted by the bank as proof of Advance Notice being given but they can be useful for any future discussions with the payer. Also at the moment if you are struggling with the other options you could consider calling the payer, confirming the details via phone, use this as the perfect opportunity to confirm their email address and then send the advance notice as confirmation after the call.
If you are still struggling, then best practice is to do whatever you can to inform your payers of changes – e.g. this could be a note on your website. Payers do understand the difficulties many organisations are experiencing right now and many just want to feel reassured that you are doing everything that you can to help them/ inform them.
Failure to notify payers can result in an increase in indemnity claims so it is important to do everything that you can for now, but also consider any improvement/ changes you may wish to make for the future so this doesn’t happen again.
5. We only have email address for some of our payers, what shall we do?
Ok well this a start! You could send advance notices out via email for the payers you have email address for and then maybe consider giving the others a call to get their email addresses. So this isn’t such a big task, try prioritising those you know are due to have an amendment or may be up for renewal. Also consider your customer service levels – you could put a notification on your website asking them to get in touch or contact you with their email addresses etc.
Remember: Proof that advance notice has been issued does not provide proof that the payer has received it! If you hold incorrect address or e mail details for example or if the payer is different from your customer, the correct person may have never received the information – just one of many reasons why it’s important to keep payer details up to date at all times not just when we are in crisis mode!
6. IF I DON’T COLLECT ON TIME, SHOULD I PROVIDE A NEW ADVANCE NOTICE?
The Direct Debit Rules state that Direct Debits must never be collected early and should be taken on or within 3 working days after the date advised to the payer. Sometimes it is not possible to collect a Direct Debit when planned. Software failures, unexpected staffing absence or database issues could all affect an organisations ability to transmit their files to Bacs. This should be avoided if possible and its why its good practice to have a Bureau on contingency standby for emergencies even if you have your own software. At the moment we are offering promotions on our contingency bureau so get in touch with the team if you would like to know more.
If your organisation fails to collect the Direct Debit as advised to the payer, you could collect it at a later date. Where this is more than 3 working days after the originally advised date, then you will need to provide Advance Notice again. If the date is amended, then you must remember to allow the full advance notification period – unless you agree differently with the payer.
7. We still POST Direct Debit Instructions to the Bank – but THE Banks are closed. What can we do?
If you post Direct Debit Instructions to the bank you are using a non-AUDDIS system. AUDDIS stands for Automated Direct Debit Instruction Service. If you are non-AUDDIS, it is very difficult to know if the bank has received your new Direct Debit Instructions – and you wont know if a direct debit has failed to lodge until you try to make your first collection. Issues at the moment with COVID-19 have really highlighted this. A lot of banks are temporarily closed and there are long postal delays. There are also concerns around whether the postal service will also come to a stop in the not too distant future. COVID–19 has highlighted the point that if you are Non-AUDDIS you may wish to consider moving to AUDDISA/ Paperless. I know in uncertain times like this, organisations are unsure about making changes, but now really would be the perfect time to do so. It would remove all of these issues as well as give you the many benefits of operating on Auddis/ Paperless, e.g.: cheaper to process, reduction in errors/unpaid Direct Debits, improved cashflow and of course offering your payers a better service. If you would like to move to Auddis/Paperless you may need to do an AUDDIS migration. If you would like to know more about this please feel free to get in touch.
ANY MORE QUESTIONS?
If you have any questions about this information – or about any of the other rules relating to Advance Notice/ Direct Debit Instructions/ Non Auddis processing or moving to AUDDIS or Paperless– please contact us and we will be happy to help. If you are interested in learning more about the Direct Debit Scheme – see our website for details about Direct Debit Training options.