Frequently asked questions about SEPA

General questions

 

What does SEPA mean?

When does SEPA come into effect?

Which countries are affected by SEPA?

 

Practical questions

About the European Credit Transfer

What is an IBAN?

Where can I find the IBAN for my account number?

What is a BIC?

Will SEPA have an impact on charges?

 

About the European direct debit

What happens to existing Belgian direct debits?

What changes does the European direct debit mean?

 

General questions

 

What does SEPA mean?

SEPA stands for “Single Euro Payments Area”. The aim of SEPA is to allow all European end users to make payments in euros throughout the SEPA area in the same way as they would in their own country, just as simply, just as securely and with the same turnaround times as for a domestic payment.

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When does SEPA come into effect?

SEPA came into effect on 1 January 2008. It will be phased in:

  • Since 2008, it has been possible to make bank card payments throughout the SEPA area just as easily as in your own country.
  • European transfers were also introduced in 2008 and have now become standard, replacing the old domestic transfer form.
  • The European direct debit has been part of our daily lives since the end of 2009 and will eventually replace the old domestic (DOM80) direct debits. 

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Which countries are affected by SEPA?

SEPA includes:

  • All EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland (including Åland), France (including Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, la Réunion, Mayotte and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden and the United Kingdom (including Gibraltar and Northern Ireland).
  • Five other European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland. 

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What is an IBAN?

The IBAN (International Bank Account Number) identifies every account along with its bank and the country where it is based. Thanks to the unique IBAN number, banks can make payments automatically without the need for any additional information.

 

In Belgium, your account number will be made up of 16 characters as standard, compared with 12 as at present. For example: a Belgian bank account number 001-1234567-44 will become BE48 0011 2345 6744 in its IBAN version.

 

The format is always as follows:

  • ISO code for the country (BE for Belgium).
  • Two check digits (48 in this example).
  • The existing Belgian account number.

 

No uniform length has been agreed for the 31 SEPA countries, but the IBAN cannot exceed 34 characters. Fixed lengths have, however, been agreed by each country. In France, for example, an IBAN consists of 27 characters, compared with 22 for a German IBAN.

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Where can I find the IBAN for my account number?

Each account number has a different IBAN. You will find the IBAN for your account number to the bottom right of your account statements. You can also work out your IBAN based on your Belgian account number.

  

What is a BIC?

The BIC (Bank Identifier Code) is an international code that banks use for financial transactions. Each bank has its own BIC. This means that international payment orders automatically reach the right bank. The BIC is also known as a SWIFT address or SWIFT code. 
 

The BIC for BNP Paribas Fortis is: GEBABEBB.

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Will SEPA have an impact on charges?

SEPA does not make any stipulations in relation to charges nor to how payments must be accepted and processed. A European Regulation, 924/2009 (replacing regulation 2560/2001 of 19/12/2001) does, however, bring charges for cross-border payments into line with the charges for comparable domestic payments, subject to certain conditions (transfer in euros to a maximum of EUR 50,000, between two accounts located in the European Economic Area, using the account number in IBAN format, quoting the BIC and specifying shared charges).

This regulation applies to all SEPA countries except for Switzerland and Monaco.

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About the European direct debit

 

What happens to the existing Belgian direct debit?

On 1st February 2014, the Belgian direct debit will be replaced with the European direct debit. As payer (debtor) you do not need to do anything to move your existing direct debits to the European system.

Your supplier (creditor) will take over the Belgian direct debit mandate, in order to convert it into a European direct debit. So your direct debits remain active and your bills will continue to be paid automatically.

Your supplier will also have to notify you that it is moving to the European system and send you the new references for your mandates which are now European.

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What changes does the European direct debit mean?

  • The bank is no longer involved in cancellation of a European direct debit: the European direct debit is a contract (mandate) between you and your supplier (creditor). In the European system, your supplier, and no longer your bank, is now responsible for mandates. When you want to cancel a European direct debit, you need to contact your creditor and not your bank.
    For some suppliers, cancellation will be possible with a telephone call, but for some, we advise sending your request for cancellation to your creditor by registered post.
  • Broader protection: from 1st February 2014, if you have a European direct debit, you will be able to decide to set up certain kinds of stops and limitations on your European direct debit mandates. For example, using PC banking, you will be able to set the frequency of direct debits or a maximum debit amount, designate authorised creditors or ask the bank to stop one or more mandates. You will also be able to request reimbursement of a debit up to 8 weeks after your account has been debited.
  • For all other practical questions, consult our product guide.

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Frequently asked questions about SEPA

  

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