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Three takes 100,000s of payments early in direct debits blunder

Mobile giant Three has apologised after taking 550,000 customers' direct debits early, in some cases almost four weeks before they were due. If you were hit with charges, you CAN get a refund but you'll need to ask for it - we've a full explanation below. has seen dozens of complaints on social media from customers affected by the blunder, with many furious that they had money taken early on Wednesday 3 April. Three says a "processing error" is to blame. 

Affected customers were due to have their direct debit payments taken on either 15,16, 26 or 29 April. 

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'Thanks for mucking up my direct debit'

We've seen lots of posts from annoyed users on social media: 

How do I check if I'm affected?

Three says it's now contacted all affected customers.

But if you haven't heard from Three and are worried you may be affected, the easiest way to be sure is to simply check the bank account which has your direct debit set up, and see if money has been taken today unexpectedly. The transaction will appear as "H3G" on your account.

You CAN get a refund – but you'll need to ask for one

If you've had payment taken unexpectedly, Three says you can get a full refund, but you'll need to take action for this to happen.

  • You can ask Three to refund the direct debit – but it'll take four days. Three says if you've been left without sufficient funds, it can arrange a refund for you, but it will take four days to arrive. To do this, you can call its customer service team – dial 333 from a Three mobile.

  • Or for a faster direct debit refund, go to your bank. You can demand a refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee, which states: "If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society."

    To do this, simply call your bank and explain what's happened. The money will be refunded to you as soon as your bank has completed any fraud checks, and so while the exact time may vary by bank, it's likely to be hours rather than days.

  • Three says it will refund you if you've incurred bank charges due to the blunder. You'll need to contact Three on 333 to explain what's happened.

    Make sure you keep any paperwork or statements showing charges, such as overdraft fees, so you can show them if needed. Keep checking in case you're hit with charges at a later date. 

Warning: If you ask for a refund you will need to make a manual payment this month to cover April's bill by calling 333. Diarise when to do this to ensure you don't forget.

Three says it has now rectified the issue and your next payment will be taken in May as usual.

'This appears to be a major blunder' 

Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at, said: "This certainly appears to be a major blunder by Three.

"We've seen a large number of complaints from very unhappy customers, with some saying they've been tipped into their overdraft. There's a real risk many of these customers have been hit with bank charges and left out of pocket as a result."

"If you're affected, the good news is you can go straight to your bank to organise an immediate refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee. And if you are hit with bank charges, you should be able to reclaim them. But Three shouldn't underestimate the goodwill this kind of error can cost – and it should be urgently trying to do whatever it can to make things right with customers."

What does Three say? 

A Three spokesperson said: "Following a processing error, a number of customers have had their direct debit payment collected earlier than planned.

"We apologise wholeheartedly for the inconvenience caused. If customers require an immediate refund they should contact their bank and we will refund any banking charges associated with the issue.

"We have contacted all affected customers and deployed additional resource in our customer service channels to provide advice to our customers."

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