The European Payments Council (EPC), the co-ordination and decision-making body of the European banking industry in relation to payments, has released updated and enhanced versions of the single euro payments area (SEPA) Credit Transfer (SCT) Scheme Rulebook and the SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) Scheme Rulebooks. The 1 November 2010 marks another important target date on the route to SEPA as from then all banks in the euro area must be reachable for cross-border SEPA direct debits as mandated by EU law.
The single element now required to achieve an integrated euro payments market is a clear deadline for the transition to the SEPA payment schemes. The EPC calls on EU lawmakers to set an end date for migration to SCT and SDD through EU Regulation. The EPC believes that a possible forthcoming regulatory intervention relating to SEPA, as outlined by the European Commission (EC) earlier this year, would derail the entire SEPA project. As such it would eliminate the extensive benefits SEPA would offer bank customers.
The SCT and SDD schemes evolve based on a transparent change management process providing all stakeholders with the opportunity to introduce suggestions for changes to the SEPA Schemes. Proposed changes to the schemes are subject to a three-month public consultation. As a result of this annual change cycle, the SCT and SDD schemes incorporate numerous features introduced by end users. The limited number of requests for new elements to be introduced into the newly released rulebooks demonstrates the maturity of the SCT and SDD schemes and highlights that they are fit for purpose. In accordance with best industry practice, banks and their service providers have sufficient time to address the rulebook updates ahead of November 2011, when these revised rulebooks will come into effect.
The 1 November is also an important target date for the roll out of SDD services by banks. EU Regulation (EC) No 924/2009 establishes mandatory reachability of all banks in the euro area for cross-border direct debits. In practice, this means that any consumer who holds an account in the euro area, which provides the option to make euro direct debit payments at a national level, can now make cross-border payments by SDD as well. As a result, paying bills becomes significantly easier for mobile European citizens. At the same time, companies are now able to collect payments by SDD across the euro area resulting in enhanced business opportunities.
EPC chair Gerard Hartsink said: “The scene is set to bring SEPA to its successful conclusion. It is now up to EU lawmakers to provide planning security to all market participants by setting a clear deadline for migration to the SEPA schemes.”
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