Heated debates between the European Central Bank, the European Payments Council and Visa Europe about interchange fees, timeframes around the SEPA Cards Framework and the emergence of a third European card scheme marked the first day of this year’s EFMA
conference in Paris. The ECB is being urged to set an end-date for migration to the SEPA Cards Framework, as well as finding itself under pressure to define business rules and set technical standards.
The uncertainty surrounding interchange fees remains a crucial sticking point.
Visa Europe, in particular, was in sharp disagreement with the ECB over interchange fees. The ECB has proposed interchange rates with little difference between credit and debit and in Visa's eyes, there is no obvious financial compensation for providing
a line of credit to the customers.
Also, the ECB argued for the emergence of a truly European card scheme. Visa's reply was that they are a truly European card scheme, now that they have independence from Visa Inc.
After a day full of feisty debates, it is clear that fully realising the goals of the SEPA Cards Framework will involve overcoming these issues and arriving at a consensus between all parties involved. If the rest of EFMA provides similarly animated debates,
it should be a good conference.