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This page goes in to some detail, but for most customers it is really simple: Either you get 5 working days notice before a collection, or you are paying the same amount every month on the same day as previously notified. If your account has credits and a refund is due, that is normally automatic and details are emailed to you.
Whilst this does describe the details of how we work, and we aim to follow those details, our main obligation is to ensure that we meet the Direct Debit Scheme rules. We may change our procedures from time to time or make collections on a different schedule to this description providing we meet the scheme rules:-
Please do read the Direct Debit Guarantee for more details of your rights within the Direct Debit Scheme.
There are several ways you know we are going to make a Direct Debit collection.
5 working days
In this document we will refer to payments being collected monthly on 1st, but in practice there are several billing cycles. Some of these are Monthly on last day, Quarterly, Every 4 weeks, and even Every full moon. The same rules apply generally to these different billing cycles but obviously the wording of the notice varies accordingly.
The credit terms on your account can interact with when Direct Debits are collected. The whole notion of credit terms and Direct Debit is rather odd, as credit terms are time to make payment which is in our control when payment is by Direct Debit - however we do allow credit terms and Direct Debit, and this gives people time to check invoices before payment is taken. The credit terms you have are a matter to discuss with our accounts department. The aim of Direct Debit collection is to ensure you pay within the credit terms agreed.
Even where you have some credit terms there may be cases where individual invoices are issued on different terms. In some cases an invoice may have longer or shorter payment terms. On services with an automatic top-up that invoice is normally issued with very short, or immediate payment terms.
In any case, whatever the credit terms are, if the collection of the Direct Debit would be impossible within the terms because of the rules on giving notice, we automatically extend the terms to fit the earliest date that we could make the collection. The helps ensure we are not late in collecting payment so as to ensure you are not liable for any late payment penalties or interest.
Whilst most customers are invoiced every month, and then pay by Direct Debit every month, there are many customers that have ad-hoc invoices at various times of month. Even regular billed customers may have one-off additional invoices or credit notes. The Direct Debit collection system we operate aims to collect what is due on your account. It is not simply collection of a fixed amount each month. So if there are extra invoices then there may be a collection of a different amount or at a different time. In any case you will get the required notice.
We check your A&A account regularly if there is a balance, and we work out if you need to have a Direct Debit collection scheduled. If you do, we send notice, if required, and set up the payment on your account. This shows your account as having had a payment at a date in the future. If you are sent an invoice at this point it will show as paid or payment scheduled. We aim to send the invoice after setting up any collection that is also due so that the invoice confirms the Direct Debit collection is scheduled. Remember the invoice may be sent to a different person to the Direct Debit notice.
Up to the evening of two working days before the payment date it is possible for accounts staff to remove or change your payment if needed. If there is any issue with the payment or you think there will be a problem then please contact the accounts department immediately. Once this point is passed the payment is committed and will go through. It is possible for you to have your bank reject the payment if necessary, but obviously if the collection is not a mistake on our part then we will charge an admin fee.
Most people have the Direct Debit Instruction set up for collection as needed, at any time of the month. So, when we check your account we look at when your payment is due. If this is within around 10 working days time we schedule a collection on 5 working days notice. The reason for this extra time is that we are trying to leave enough time to re-schedule a collection if the payment fails before your invoices become over due. However, the amount we collect covers any amounts due within a few more days further - this is to avoid having to do collections every few days if you have lots of invoices due over several days in a row.
Some people ask for us to collect on a specific day of the month. We aim to meet this but cannot guarantee it.
We always ensure we collect on or immediately after the date we notify, as per the DD rules. Please ensure you read the notice we send.
This does mean that if you have longer payment terms, e.g. 30 days, and pick a date for collection, that will normally mean collection before the end of the credit terms (i.e. on the date you have chosen). This is, of course, perfectly sensible as the terms define the last date collection can be made without being late, so payment can be made any time before the due date.
All of the above applies to normal payments and notice. Each time we notify you of collection we also look to see if the payment appears to be a regular payment. So, if the current payment is being notified on the billing cycle (e.g. 1st of month), and the previous payment was notified on the start of the previous billing cycle and exactly the same amount, then we tell you in the notice that you will have that amount collected each month (or billing cycle). The next month, when notifying payment, if the amount is the same we collect immediately (2 working days) with no extra notice.
If a payment does not fit what we notified, i.e. is the amount or date are not what we notified, then the regular payments are stopped and a new 5 working days notice given for each payment again.
However, in order to try and collect monthly on the 1st where we invoice monthly on the 1st, we have to set up the payment 2 working days before the 1st.
It is possible for a change to your account, e.g. a credit note, or a change to billing (as described above), to happen after a Direct Debit collection has been set up and so leaving your account in credit (i.e. we collected too much). This normally results in a Direct Debit having an unallocated amount, and hence some refund due. We do take in to account any billing expected in the next couple of days though, so will not refund just before a new invoice is due.
When this happens, if the Direct Debit is not yet sent to the bank, we cancel it, and if necessary re-issue a new Direct Debit with the 5 working days notice. We email you to advise you that we have done this.
If the Direct Debit has already been send to the bank, we wait until it has cleared. Then, if it is within the last 3 months, we will refund the extra that had been charged back to the same bank. Again, we email to let you know this has happened.
This is all automatic. In any other circumstances we may manually send a refund, which can take additional time, or you can contact our accounts department to arrange a refund.
You can set up a Direct Debit Instruction on the accounts pages on-line, and can also change or cancel your instruction. We also receive notice if your bank change or cancel your Direct Debit.
The notices we send, for setting up a new Direct Debit, changing a Direct Debit, Collection, Refund, or failed collection notice, are all emailed to the contact email address you specified on the Direct Debit Instruction. The email is digitally signed plain text with a separate PDF attachment to make it easy to print or file.
Some times we ask you to sign a paper instruction, which can be down to the way your bank works, or if you have multiple signatories on your account. We provide a freepost envelope for returning the instruction, but this does all add some extra days before the first collection can be made so you may have to pay initial invoices by other means. Even if a Direct Debit is already set up and working, we may in some cases ask you to sign and return an instruction on paper.