Pet Hates: The Devil’s Demand (or Direct Debit)

When I took out a contract with my existing mobile ‘phone company, I was told that I could have the package I wanted only on condition that I paid for it by direct debit.  No, a standing order was not acceptable.  Nor payment upon receipt of the bill.


My landline provider charges me an extra fee, every month, as a form of penalty for not paying by direct debit.  Every year, I have to pay for my television licence upfront, because the only payment in installments they accept, is through direct debit.  Again, they do not accept a standing order.  It is almost impossible to take out a magazine subscription, and spread you payments, unless you set up a direct debit.


Just in case there is anyone left out there, who does not know the difference between a standing order and a direct debit (I found out – the hard way – only a few years ago) – or calls them something else in another country, here it is, in a nutshell:


A Standing Order: You instruct your bank to make regular payments from your account to a third party.  The transfers remain under your control.  In case of any mishap, the bank should be able to fix it.


A Direct Debit: You give a third party your bank details and grant them permission to help themselves to an agreed some of money.  You thereby hand over control of your money to this third party.  If anything goes askew, the bank is powerless to do anything, since you have willingly relinquished control to someone else.



Companies bully you into paying them by direct debit because that gives them the guarantee that they will get their money.  I cannot help but read, in this attitude, the implication that they do not trust you to settle your bills for their service promptly and accurately.


And yet, you are expected to trust blindly that they will provide you with faultless service.


There is often a sentence in the magnifying glass requiring section of many agreements (for example, with a telephone or broadband supplier), which stipulates that the company does not guarantee uninterrupted service.  Strangely, the customer cannot, however, add to this contract the proviso that payment will be withheld or the amount altered in the event that service should prove unsatisfactory.  In fact, another aberration, in an economic system in which the purchaser’s power is rapidly waning, is that the Law should allow telephone companies to lock you into a minimal eighteen-month contract.  Of course, they have got you over a barrel.  They know that you need a mobile ‘phone, or whatever else it is that the 21st Century Westerner cannot live without.



We, customers are no longer the free agents.  We are the beggars who become the willing slaves of the very organisations which are supposed to serve us.  This brings back to mind the tribute-demanding dragons of Mediaeval legends and lays.


As far as little me is concerned, I persist in my refusal to set up direct debits wherever I can.  I resent the companies’ suggestion that I am either a crook who will not pay, or a scatterbrain who will forget to pay.  If I am expected to trust the company’s honesty and integrity, then the company should, in return, trust me to pay the bills.


Otherwise, the relationship strikes me as somewhat unequal.


© Scribe Doll

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2 Responses to Pet Hates: The Devil’s Demand (or Direct Debit)

  1. adrian hallchurch says:

    If every customer was like you, Scribedoll, then they wouldn’t have needed to invent the direct debit – but then, we wouldn’t need locks on our doors, either!

  2. simon roberts says:

    Sort of related but, anyway, worth sharing. On the strength of an article in ‘The Guardian’ I’d ordered some charity Christmas cards – handcrafted affairs from a Bangladeshi community ( oh, yes, very ‘Guardian’! ) from their Windsor-based supplier. The cards arrived pronto ( and very attractive they are too ) followed by an emailed request for payment by cheque. Notice the order of events, people: order, supply, request for payment. How refreshing ( how Heineken ).

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