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What are the risks associated with SEPA direct debit and what can you do about it?

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If you decide to offer SEPA direct debit, you will definitely make yourself very popular with your customers. After all, it is a payment method that anyone with a bank account can use.

What are the disadvantages of SEPA direct debit that you as a seller should be aware of?

Return debits are possible for 8 weeks

Your customer buys, the money arrives, the product is approved. The transfer is complete, but with direct debit your customer has the option to withdraw the payment for 8 weeks. Without giving reasons.

This is a mechanism that is actually supposed to prevent fraud. After all, someone could have obtained the bank details without authorization.

If there is no fraud and your customer actually has no right to claim the money back, you can take civil action against the return debit, because the service was provided by you.

Fraud with the wrong bank details

If someone gets the bank details of other people, they can use them to make purchases via SEPA direct debit. Fraudsters then either try to get hold of the goods or try to steal money through a combination of chargeback and cancellation. 

SEPA direct debit - payment & cancellation with delay 

Since the direct debit is a banking transaction, the money does not flow immediately. After purchase and distribution of the direct debit mandate, it can take 6 days until you receive information about the redemption at your bank or the confirmation that a return debit is on its way.

Even if your customer initiates a return debit, you as the seller do not notice this immediately, but only a few days later.

If the customer - out of malice or ignorance - asks you to cancel in the meantime, there may be double reimbursements, if

  • you cancel the payment and
  • the customer returns the direct debit on his own initiative (chargeback).

I.e. you then paid back the amount twice - once via the chargeback from the customer's bank or initiated by the customer and via the repayment of the amount via the order itself.

You also have to pay the chargeback fees of the issuing bank and our service fees.

When should I use SEPA direct debit?

First of all, it is important to check for which of your products you offer SEPA direct debit.

If your product or service is something that is provided immediately (e.g. an eBook that you send), other payment methods may be more suitable because the chargeback is not that easy and you get money immediately.

You can arrange for your customer to receive a product only after you have received the money. So you can be sure that the customer's account exists. If there is a case of fraud, the owner of the account may notice this before the money gets to you and the product is shipped. 

If you sell something that is not delivered immediately, e.g. a coaching lasting several weeks, you are no longer obliged to provide the service (further) in the case of a return debit. The method of paying by direct debit is therefore well suited for subscriptions and installment payments.

If you sell cheap products, there is also little argument against other payment methods such as credit cards, because the limit is not exceeded here. If you are just setting up your business and may not have the means to defend yourself in the event of fraud, you should only offer SEPA direct debit to selected customers.

If your customers are companies, you usually have financial accounting that is familiar with the SEPA procedure. This reduces the likelihood of carelessness chargebacks and overlaps. In addition, you may have personal contact with corporate customers before buying and you can get an impression of their seriousness before you make your offer.

important links

Using a SEPA direct debit

Why is it so difficult to sell by direct debit? (Blog article)


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