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How to Fight Back Against IBAN Discrimination

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Have you ever been in a situation where a company has refused to accept your IBAN?

Was it simply because it contains a different country code? If so, this article is for you.

What is an IBAN?

An IBAN stands for ‘International Bank Account Number’.

Every IBAN is unique and begins with a two-digit country code that indicates which location the account is based in.

IBANs are used to make and receive domestic and international euro payments across countries that are members of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA)

You can find your IBAN online once you log into your banking account, or you can also find it on your bank statements.

The usual structure of a SEPA country IBAN contains the following:

  • A two-letter country code
  • A two check digit
  • Up to 30 alpha-numeric characters

Example: XY12123456789012345678901234567890

What is the Single Euro Payment Area?

The European Payments Council introduced the Single Euro Payment Area to simplify and make cross-border payments as easy as local ones.

Now, all customers, businesses, and government organizations in countries that are members of SEPA can benefit from easy direct debits and transfers between one another.

Not only does the SEPA cover the whole European Union, but it also includes a great number of non-EU countries, such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Iceland, to name a few.

What are SEPA Supported Bank Accounts?

A SEPA-supported bank account is any bank account that operates within the SEPA.

As per the provisions set out in the SEPA regulations, all SEPA-supported banks are allocated a unique IBAN.

There are currently 27 EU member states, and seven non-EU member states that are SEPA members who benefit from easy and simple cross-border transactions with other member states.

What is IBAN discrimination?

Unfortunately, IBAN discrimination has become quite common across Europe.

Many people have reported companies within the SEPA rejecting their SEPA-supported bank account due to the difference in the country code on their IBAN.

Even if the country your account is located in has left the EU, you are still part of SEPA, and it is illegal for any company to reject your IBAN. 

IBAN discrimination can occur both during an online transaction and when making a payment or purchasing a good or service in person.

This rejection and refusal to accept an IBAN is referred to as IBAN discrimination, and despite it being a common practice, it is completely illegal!

It is a direct violation of European Union Law as stated under Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation.

Suppose you live in Italy and are trying to pay your electricity and gas bill, but the company rejects your IBAN because they only accept Italian IBANs.

In this case, the company has just committed IBAN discrimination. 

So, what do you do next?

Here is what you can do if your IBAN gets rejected:

Step 1: Inform the company that IBAN discrimination is illegal.

Inform the company that has refused to accept your IBAN that they directly violate Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation.

Inform them that they are under a statutory duty to accept IBANs from other SEPA countries.

Step 2: Send a formal written complaint to the company.

If your IBAN is still being rejected, the next step is writing a formal written complaint to the company.

You can find many templates online for an IBAN discrimination complaint letter, but these are the most important facts you should cover:

  • Clearly state your IBAN and that your account is a valid SEPA-supported bank account.
  • Mention the date and time of your attempted transaction from your SEPA-supported bank account.
  • Mention the exact reason you were given as to why the transaction was declined.
  • State that IBAN discrimination is a violation of Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation and that you will report any refusal by a company to comply with its provisions to the relevant authority.
  • Request for your details to be accepted so there are no issues with future payments.

Making a formal written complaint ensures that there is a record of the IBAN discrimination taking place and puts pressure on the company to comply with SEPA guidelines.

Step 3: Report any ongoing cases of IBAN Discrimination to the relevant authorities.

You can report any ongoing IBAN discrimination cases at https://www.acceptmyiban.org/.

Several companies started the ‘Accept my IBAN’ initiative within the European financial sector facing this problem.

The reporting website is created by Wise and is supported by other members.

Here, you will have to fill out a form and provide the following information:

  • Your country of residence
  • Your postal code
  • Your IBAN country
  • Details of what happened when your IBAN was refused
  • Name and location of the company you are making a complaint against
  • Whether or not you contacted the company
  • The reason they gave for not accepting your IBAN
  • Attach any documents or evidence, such as an email confirming that your IBAN was rejected and why. 

You can also report all cases of IBAN discrimination to your local authority.

You need to stand your ground and take action immediately so that this issue is not overlooked.

You can find a complete list of regulatory bodies responsible for ensuring that SEPA regulations are enforced and complied with here.

Final words

Here is what you should keep in mind:

  • IBANs are used to make and receive domestic and international euro payments across countries that are members of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA)
  • IBAN discrimination is completely illegal, and there is no reason a company should prevent you from making any transactions within the SEPA.
  • If you find yourself in a position where your IBAN is being rejected, you should take action immediately to ensure that this does not happen again and that the company complies with all SEPA regulations in the future.


What is an IBAN?

An IBAN stands for ‘International Bank Account Number’.

What are IBAN used for?


What is the structure of a SEPA country IBAN?


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