There are three main ways in which you can access a Direct Debit in the UK.
Which one is best for your requirements will depend on a number of factors, including how you want to manage Direct Debits and the resources that you have available to you. These are explained below:
Becoming a Direct Submitter and gaining Direct Access to Direct Debits
Using the Direct Access method, organisations become a Direct Submitter, i.e. Direct Debits are submitted directly to Bacs without intervention from a third party (a bureau for example). Organisations can originate their own payment instructions, create the payment files and submit them directly to Bacs.
This type of Direct Debit collection requires that you apply to a sponsoring bank for a Service User Number (SUN). The bank will apply a number of criteria, including checks for integrity, financial standing and ability to administer the system.
Once a SUN has been granted organisations can use Bacstel-IP, a delivery channel that gives corporate users’ secure online access to Bacs. Organisations will typically use Bacs-approved software to manage the submission process.
In addition to submitting your files directly to Bacs, you can download your exception reports either through the software or using the secure Bacs payment services website. This website can also be used to view your Bacs payment submission history, and maintain details of your service users and contacts. To access the payment services website and to enable submission to Bacs you’ll be issued with Smart Cards by your bank or you can fully automate the process of submission and downloading of reports by using a Hardware Security Module (HSM).
Using a Bacs Bureau
An alternative to submitting directly to Bacs is to become an Indirect Submitter. This uses a bank or Commercial Bureau, or internal bureau, to submit your Direct Debit payment files to Bacs. You can create the payment file directly, or it can be created by the Bacs bureau or your bank. You will still need to have a bank-sponsored Service User Number (SUN) to operate as an indirect submitter, which will be linked to the Bureau User Number (BUN).
More than 50% of organisations in the UK that collect Direct Debits, make their payment submissions to Bacs through an approved bureau. All Commercial Bureaux have to undergo regular inspections from Bacs. If you are considering using a bureau for making Direct Debit collections then make sure you use a Bacs-Approved Bureau.
I cannot get a Service User Number, can I outsource my Direct Debits?
Where a bank will not sponsor you to collect Direct Debits (i.e. you will not be able to get a Service User Number), you can use a Facilities Managed (FM) service. They will collect Direct Debits on your behalf using a Service User Number that they own on your behalf, to a bank account that they hold in your name.