The European Payments Council (EPC), the co-ordination and decision-making body of the European payments industry, has published its Annual Report 2009. The EPC delivers the payment schemes and frameworks necessary to create the single euro payments area (SEPA), an EU integration initiative in the area of payments designed to realise the completion of the EU internal market and monetary union. SEPA is currently defined as consisting of the EU 27 Member States plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Monaco. The EPC Annual Report 2009 highlights further substantial progress achieved in the following areas covered by the EPC work programme.
In November 2009, the EPC successfully launched the SEPA Core and the SEPA Business-to-business (B2B) Direct Debit Schemes. As of this date, banks throughout SEPA are gradually starting to deliver SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) services to their customers. All branches of banks in the euro area must be reachable for SEPA Core Direct Debit by 1 November 2010, as mandated by the EU Regulation on Cross-border Payments in the Community.
The same month, the EPC released updated versions of the SEPA Scheme Rulebooks including new mandatory and optional elements, which reflect further customer requirements as identified during the annual three month public consultation.
The realisation of SEPA requires agreement on a common set of data to be exchanged in a common syntax. The SEPA data formats specified by the EPC for the exchange of SEPA payments represent such a common data set. The SEPA data formats are a valid subset of the global ISO 20022 message standards. Following release of enhanced implementation guidelines for the customer-to-bank communication, in 2009 the EPC approved recommendations on the reporting of SEPA transactions by banks to their customers allowing for fully automated straight-through processing (STP) of SEPA transactions along the entire process chain (customer-to-bank; bank-to-bank; bank-to-customer).
In response to changing customer habits, significant progress was achieved in the design of the SEPA e-Payments Framework facilitating online payments with a payment-guarantee for web-retailers followed by a SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT). In addition, the EPC Roadmap for Mobile Payments approved in March 2009 spells out the main deliverables in the areas of SEPA card proximity payments and SEPA card mobile remote payments.
Also in 2009, the EPC, together with representatives of the main sectors active in the cards domain including retailers, vendors (manufacturers of cards, payment devices and related IT systems), processors and card schemes established the Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG) mandated to progress the use of open and free standards available to all parties in the SEPA cards market.
EPC chair Gerard Hartsink said: “The EPC Annual Report 2009 demonstrates the continued commitment of the European payments industry to making SEPA a reality. The successful conclusion of this harmonisation exercise requires action by all stakeholders. The EPC welcomes the fact that the EU Finance Ministers represented in the Economics and Financial Affairs Council [ECOFIN] recognise that setting a deadline for migration to SEPA provides the clarity and the incentive needed by the marke,; will ensure that the substantial benefits of SEPA are rapidly achieved, and that the high costs of running both legacy and SEPA products in parallel can be eliminated. The European Commission, in collaboration with the European Central Bank and co-operating with all actors concerned, is now assessing whether legislation is needed to set binding end dates for migration to the SEPA schemes and will come up with a legislative proposal should this assessment confirm that need. The EPC reiterates: a transformation process of this dimension must be transparent and predictable for all market participants. Mandating an EU-wide end date requires EU legislation.”
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