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member payments

Anytime Fitness (both images) has already switched to SEPA


to be easy. Getting ‘sleepers’ to sign a new mandate may be even more difficult. Consequently, there could be significant financial implications relating to loss of members during the switchover phase. It would therefore seem logical to begin

the process much earlier than February 2014, launching SEPA DD and gathering new SEPA DD mandates from members as soon as possible. If all members have already provided SEPA mandates, or are even already being collected via SEPA DD before February 2014, then the risk of member cancellation has been eliminated. Indeed, Anytime Fitness has already made the decision to process all new business in the EU via SEPA; come the switch, it will be immune from any member fallout. However, any operators leaving the

switchover until the last minute will potentially suffer huge losses, finding themselves with lots of members but no way of collecting fees.

Operator opportunities Although the migration will be a potentially difficult phase, SEPA is also a world of opportunity. This new standardised framework allows businesses to easily expand into different European countries, while also centralising administration and costs. If you are planning, or about to open, a new health club in the Eurozone,

using SEPA DD from the outset offers multiple benefits: not only the ability to take direct debits from any EU national bank account, but also avoiding the need to switch and have all members re-sign in only 18 months’ time. SEPA also means that moving into another European country and opening clubs – or any other business using direct debit – is now significantly less complicated. For Anytime Fitness, for example – a US franchise expanding into Europe – the rollout is much easier than it would previously have been, as there is no need to seek new partners and billing platforms in each country. Do you have clubs in different

European countries? If so, then you will currently operate legacy (local) direct debit platforms in each country. SEPA means you can now run all clubs from a single solution, thereby significantly reducing administration costs and also offering greater flexibility to members. Clubs will also be able to set up direct debits easily with members without bank accounts in their country. For instance, students studying abroad could still use home bank accounts to join health clubs. Perhaps you’re based in the UK, but with

a service you could sell across the EU? Any business in the UK, or other EU country, could begin to take direct debits from customers across the Eurozone. This could

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be health club-based, or any subscription or recurring payment-based service or product. SEPA means an ability to reach a much wider audience while still using the UK as a base, removing the previous need to set up legacy systems in each country. There are also real business advantages

to SEPA for clients, with clearing time reduced from three days to one day.

Time to act

Health club operators in the Eurozone need to begin thinking about the implications of SEPA now. Existing clubs will need to change – and the sooner the better – while new clubs may be better to use SEPA from the outset. Expansion into other Eurozone countries will now be much easier from a payments perspective, and there will be no need to seek authorisation to process by means of the legacy platform. Once you are a SEPA user, the whole of the Eurozone opens up to you.


Kevin Scott is director of the Harlands Group – in conjunction with RBS, the first UK company of any sort to develop a SEPA platform. Its systems act as a translation process for any business in the Eurozone to convert flat files into SEPA format, with solutions that allow data to be entered online, manually or by file import. Clients can also manage all direct debit mandates and customers via its SEPA cloud member access solution.

july 2012 © cybertrek 2012

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