The idea of personally transferring hundreds or thousands of direct debits has always been a deterrent for reviewing your payment plan provider. It’s a major hassle for you and your patients, and you might even lose them if they forget to sign it.
That’s changed because the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) thought it was unfair and made new rules for Bacs, the company that runs direct debit in the UK. Providers are required to sign up to a “bulk change” process, which means that now if you want to switch provider all you have to do is ask.
The rules also make it easier for new suppliers to get permission to process direct debits, which could mean chunky savings for you (but maybe not this tax year — see below). That’s because in the past, plan providers needed “sponsorship” from a bank that was a Bacs member before they could process direct debits. This wasn’t always possible and it could be a closed shop. The PSR thought this stifled competition and inflated prices.
To give you an idea of what a more lively plan provider market means for you, here are the savings that Patient Plan Direct, one of the new kids on the block, said its customers could save in an e-shot back in April:
|Savings per annum|
|Patients on plan||Savings from DPAS||Savings from Practice Plan||Savings from Denplan (SimplyHealth)|
And here are the main points of the new rules:
- all plan providers must become accredited using a new scheme
- plan providers identified by Bacs prior to 31 December 2017 have until 30 June 2018 to become accredited
- new or late-identified plan providers have an extended deadline
- Bacs is required to provide a description of service levels under the system of accreditation, including the timing of any bulk change process steps
When I asked Bacs for details of the bulk change process they said: “Work to define any potential SLAs as part of the accreditation process, such as elements of a switch or an end-to-end switch timeframe for instance, is a continuing and collaborative process involving a range of stakeholders. The outcome of this work, and any defined next steps, will be progressed during the second half of 2018.”
Here is what the PSR says happens should delays become excessive: “In the event that insufficient progress is being made or we consider that the proposed approach will not address our requirements, we may take further action. This may include enforcement action and/or further use of our FSBRA [Financial Services Banking Reform Act 2013] powers.”
Since this article was published on June 13 Bacs made a further comment: “The deadline of 30 June relates to all those commercial facilities management providers, as identified of 31 December 2017, becoming accredited. This is on track and will be completed by the deadline. As such, there is no delay to the process.
“The specific SLAs, which is what we believed your question related to and what our comment addresses, is a longer-run piece of work, as agreed with the PSR. A couple of other things it is worth highlighting is that sponsorship and ‘permissions’ re collecting direct debits for providers hasn’t changed.
“The bulk change process means that organisations wishing to switch facility management provider can do so with greater ease than ever before, helping to fuel greater competition in the market.”