The European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) have encouraged the European Payments Council (EPC) to move ahead with the launch of the SEPA Direct Debit scheme. Under this scheme, bank customers would be able to arrange direct debits to pay companies with bank accounts in any of the 31 European countries participating in single euro payments area (SEPA). The Commission and ECB recognise the potential advantages of the SEPA Direct Debit scheme, in terms of economies of scale and increased competition liable to drive efficiency and innovation in the area of payments to the benefit of European consumers and companies. The Commission and the ECB have indicated to the EPC that they would be prepared to support the idea of a ‘multilateral interchange fee’ for cross border direct debits within the framework of the SEPA scheme on condition that such fees were objectively justified and transitional (applicable only for a limited period). Internal market commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, stated “The SEPA Direct Debit scheme is one of the key elements in establishing a single euro payment area. It offers enormous potential for individuals and businesses to manage cross frontier payments on the basis of a single bank account. Most national direct debit schemes are free and I would expect that the introduction of SEPA Direct Debits would not involve any increase in fees for customers. With the latest clarification I would call on the industry to come forward with their detailed proposals so that the necessary decisions can be taken to launch this important project.”
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