Continuous payment authorities and how to cancel them

Have you taken up a free offer online and provided a credit or debit card number? By doing so you are giving the firm the right to take any amount of money from you at any time

Continuous payment authorities and how to cancel them

Most of us have. But by doing so you are giving the firm the right to take any amount of money from you at any time – for ever.

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It’s called a “continuous payment authority” or “recurring payment”.

You authorise one when you give a firm your credit or debit card number to pay for a subscription.

That could be to a wine club, software, beauty products, gym membership or even a magazine.

Sometimes the subscription appears to be a one-off, often sold as a “three months free” offer. In fact you give the firm the right to take money from your credit card or, if you gave a debit card number, from your current account, without ever asking you again.

They are also used by payday lenders and some telecoms providers . Continuous Payment Authorities (CPAs) are powerful, and while some are safe they can be a potentially dangerous tool.

It’s easy to agree to one without realising it. Some scams make it very hard to realise you have even given the authority. So check your credit card and bank statements and see if there’s a regular payment you don’t recognise. Find out what it is.

If you discover you have given a CPA but no longer want the product or service, tell your bank or credit-card provider to stop making the payments. It has to obey your instruction and if it makes a further payment it has to refund you.

Some banks or card providers may argue. Insist, threaten to go to the Financial Ombudsman, and if necessary do that.

You should also inform the supplier. But step one is to cancel the CPA with your card provider.

Finding the supplier and informing them should only be step two. Some will hide themselves very well. But if you have sent the supplier an email or cancelled via their website there should be no future claim against you.

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The protection is given now by Reg 67 of the Payment Services Regulations 2017, which implemented an earlier EU Directive. After the UK leaves the EU, these regulations could be changed.