Why won’t Barclays let me cancel my direct debit?

Shortly after we cancelled a direct debit, we received an email from Barclays saying we had to contact the “merchant” we had been paying to confirm the cancellation. After complaining, we were told that if we did not do so, the merchant could continue to take a payment. Halifax, our other bank, said the same.
BG, Newcastle

According to the official direct debits website, operated by Bacs, you can cancel at any time by contacting your bank or building society. “If this is by phone or internet, written confirmation may be required.” It recommends you notify the merchant, but you don’t have to. “Under the scheme, it would have to obtain your authority to reinstate a cancelled instruction,” it adds. But if you are in a contract, such as a 12-month gym membership, cancelling a direct debit does not, in itself, exonerate you from an obligation to pay.

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