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I have a bank account with ABN AMRO in the Netherlands. Since it's Euro-denominated and the app doesn't suck, I thought I'd just keep using it now I've moved to Germany. But this doesn't work.

Two direct debit authorisations so far (Vodafone mobile/cable account, Amex card) have insisted on German-format (22 digit) IBANs, and it looks like my debit card isn't accepted in POS terminals here.

Isn't the whole point of SEPA that things like this Just Work?

  • I think the point of SEPA is that it can work, not that all companies in other countries will update their forms and processes to take advantage of it. Sadly there's plenty of country-specific banking requirements, France and cheques is one that springs to mind... – Gagravarr Jul 30 '16 at 8:25
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    I am not sure that it is covered by the SEPA regulation but I have used an ABN-AMRO debit card successfully in Germany recently so at least some POS terminals do accept it, it seems. – Gala Jul 30 '16 at 11:04
  • I've since had it work in a POS terminal, so maybe that was a one-off. – Robert Atkins Jul 30 '16 at 13:21
  • "Doesn't suck" and "doesn't work" are usually considered poor description of the problem. If you want to make bank transfer you shoud use YOUR bank system and not some of 3rd party. – user9879 Aug 1 '16 at 7:57
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    @ouflak Reverse your title edit please. The question isn't about NL-DE SEPA transfers (I was just detailing that specific example as proof that it doesn't universally work); neo's answer below is the generalisation I was seeking in the title. – Robert Atkins Mar 19 '17 at 13:59
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What you have found here regarding direct debit is called IBAN discrimination and is against the law. Specifically, against article 9 of EU Regulation 260/2012:

  1. A payer making a credit transfer to a payee holding a payment account located within the Union shall not specify the Member State in which that payment account is to be located, provided that the payment account is reachable in accordance with Article 3.
  2. A payee accepting a credit transfer or using a direct debit to collect funds from a payer holding a payment account located within the Union shall not specify the Member State in which that payment account is to be located, provided that the payment account is reachable in accordance with Article 3.

The relevant German authorities are aware of it but the mills of bureaucracy grind slowly as we say in German. Unfortunately, even many public institutions like the collector of the broadcast fee and health funds practice this.

You should direct your complaints to the relevant supervisory body if there is one. For Amex, that's BaFin which is aware of this problem and known to take it seriously. For Vodafone, complaints can go to any customer protection association, such as a Verbraucherzentrale but I don't know if they do anything with such complaints.

For the bank card in shops, no store is required to accept any card and some (especially smaller ones) only take ones badged with the German Girocard system.

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SEPA is not a lie, it's there. All national bank transfers are running on the SEPA infrastructure. So there is no technical reason for IBAN discrimination. It's just people. People just love their national bubbles and good old local habits.

The only way to win against any discrimination is persistent and wide-spread protest. Do not let this go unchallenged. Remind any offender that they are breaking the law and send a written complaint.

I quit my contract with WIND in Italy because they wouldn't accept my German credit card(!), let alone IBAN.

Protest in every possible way. It's the only way to get rid of it eventually.

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