On 28 January the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) goes live. It will be welcomed at European level with a high-level event involving the Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Payments Council. EuroCommerce and the 6 million retail companies it represents have supported, from their inception, all the steps leading up to a Single European Market for Payments: Regulation 2560 on cross-border payments, the Directive on Payment Services, a number of competition cases and SEPA. SEPA heralds a new era in payment systems in Europe: it aims to make cross-border electronic payments in euro at least as quick, cheap and easy as domestic payments are at present. It will link up payment systems across Europe, doing away with the current national fragmentation and allowing retailers to accept payment cards from all across the euro area. “All these projects, although not yet fully implemented, will eventually benefit every single European citizen”, said Xavier Durieu, Secretary General of EuroCommerce. EuroCommerce believes that one of the retailers’ main concerns, the multilateral interchange fee (MIF), will be alleviated by the recent Commission decision against MasterCard. Xavier Durieu continued: “By setting a precedent for national regulators, the Commission’s decision on MasterCard should result in the progressive abolition of MIF in every country across Europe. When applied to other card schemes and at national level, this will allow new players to enter the market and to establish healthy competition in the payment cards market to the benefit of all stakeholders. We sincerely hope that SEPA keeps its promise to bring increased choice and better prices, to retailers and consumers alike”.
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