Skip to main content

Defend your rights against IBAN Discrimination



Defend your rights against IBAN Discrimination

We’ve noticed that a few companies across Europe are refusing to accept your Starling euro account bank details because they contain the country code ‘GB’. This is known as IBAN discrimination and it’s illegal.

What can I do if my IBAN isn’t accepted?

Here are a few simple steps you can take if this happens.

1. Advise the company that they are obliged to accept your GB IBAN. If they don’t, then they are committing IBAN discrimination, which is against the law (Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation). If they do accept your IBAN, great. You need to make sure that they have your correct UK address on file too and let them know to send it to their bank for onward processing.

2. If they still refuse to accept your GB IBAN, you should send them a formal, written complaint. To help you do this, we’ve created a template (see below).

3. We've joined a coalition of companies to help tackle this issue. Please report any ongoing IBAN discrimination on where your anonymised data will then be passed on to the relevant authorities and the European Commission.

What is an IBAN?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number and every account has their own - it’s what makes them unique. Every IBAN will begin with a 2 digit country code, which shows where in the world your account is based. For example, all Starling Bank IBANs begin with ‘GB’ and look like this:

GB12 XXXX 0123 4567 8910 11

Find out more about the basics in our guide to IBAN, SWIFT and BIC.

What is SEPA?

SEPA stands for Single Euro Payments Area and it was launched with the intention of simplifying the way cashless euro payments are made across Europe. The SEPA zone consists of 36 members, including the United Kingdom. Even though the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union (EU), it’s still part of SEPA, and you have the right to continue to benefit from access to SEPA with your Starling euro account. All payment service providers, including banks, use IBANs when making SEPA payments.

What is IBAN discrimination?

IBAN discrimination is where a company refuses to accept your SEPA-supported bank account details to send and receive SEPA payments, because of where your account is located.

If this happens, not only is this frustrating for you, but it’s actually illegal. Your Starling IBAN should always be accepted because the UK is still part of SEPA, and Starling still fully supports SEPA payments.

How can I identify IBAN discrimination?

Let’s say that you’re looking to pay a utility bill for a property that you own in Spain. If you try to pay this bill by direct debit (or by bank transfer) and the utility company refuse to accept this payment because your IBAN starts with GB, this could be IBAN discrimination. If your bank account is in a different country and your bank supports SEPA payments, the utility company is required by law to accept your GB IBAN.

Template for a written complaint

Dear X,

My GB-denominated IBAN [insert your Starling IBAN number] is a valid account that supports SEPA payments.

On [insert date], I attempted to make a [insert payment method] from the account mentioned above, but this transaction was declined because [insert reason you were given].

IBAN discrimination is a violation of Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation and that refusal to comply with this regulation will be reported to the relevant competent authority.

Please authorise my details in your system and in doing so ensure that this payment, and any future payments, settle successfully.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]