Continuous payment authorities: it is your right to cancel

Published: 28/06/2013   Last Modified : 22/07/2013
Find out your rights when cancelling a continuous payment authority and what to do if your bank does not allow you to do this.

We have found that card issuers, such as banks and building societies, were not always cancelling continuous payments authorities when their customers asked them to. Following this, they have now tightened up their procedures to make sure when you cancel; the money stays in your account.

If you give a company the long number across your debit or credit card and authorise it to regularly take money out of your account, you probably have a continuous payment authority.

If you have ever had one of these payments set up and then struggled to cancel it, you should be aware that you have the right to cancel through your card issuer and to complain if it does not do so. See how to cancel other types of payments.

How continuous payment authorities work

With continuous payment authorities (sometimes also called ‘recurring payments’), the company will ask for the long number across your debit or credit card rather than for your bank details. They are often used for things like payday loans or gym memberships.

Whilst you might have heard of direct debits and standing orders, continuous payment authorities are slightly different. They do not offer the same guarantee as direct debits and give the company taking the payment more flexibility about when and how much it takes from your account.

How to cancel a continuous payment authority

In most cases, you should be able to cancel by contacting the company taking the payment and asking it to stop. However, you do have the right to cancel directly with your card issuer. Once you have done this, it must stop payments immediately – it cannot insist that you agree this with the company taking the payment first.

REMEMBER: IT IS YOUR RIGHT TO CANCEL CONTINUOUS PAYMENT AUTHORITIES DIRECTLY WITH YOUR CARD ISSUER

However, it is recommended you inform both the company taking the payment and your card issuer when cancelling a continuous payment authority.

You may also want to check your next statement to ensure the payment has been cancelled as requested.

Keep in mind that you will still be responsible for paying any money that you owe.

Payday loans

When taking out a payday loan, it is common for the lender to set up a continuous payment authority on a debit card. However, we sometimes hear of payday lenders varying the dates and amounts they claim from customers’ accounts and making repeated attempts to take payments.

Our findings revealed that some card issuers were calling continuous payment authorities set up with payday lenders ‘guaranteed payments’ and incorrectly refusing to cancel them when requested by their customers. Those card issuers have now agreed to end this practice.

You should be aware, no matter if the firm you are dealing with calls a continuous payment authority a ‘guaranteed payment’, ‘recurring payment’ or ‘recurring transaction’, it is still your right to cancel it directly through your card issuer. 

What to do if payments are not cancelled  

Any related payments taken after you ask for a continuous payment authority to be stopped are considered to be unauthorised transactions. Card issuers must refund these payments and any related charges immediately.

If payments continue, contact your card issuer to arrange a refund. If it fails to do so, you should make a complaint to the card issuer and, then, if you are not satisfied with its response, take the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Find out more about how to complain.

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Related links

How to complain

Stopping a payment

Making and receiving a payment


External links

Money Advice Service on using continuous payment authorities Provides information about continuous payment authorities and alternative payments

Money Advice Service on managing your bank account Provides information about payments, overdrafts and bank charges

Financial Ombudsman Service

Helps settle consumer complaints with financial services firms

Office of Fair Trading (OFT)

Protects against unfair practice and deals with consumer credit

Citizens Advice

Offers free and practical information to help consumers