The founding members of the Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes (EAPS) - an initiative established with the aim of linking national debit card systems to process cross-border transactions - are setting up a not-for-profit company in the second half of 2007, which will be headquartered in Brussels.
EAPS was established last year to explore ways of linking existing national debit card schemes into a pan-European network following the introduction of the single euro payment area (Sepa) in 2008.
Founding members of the scheme include Germany's electronic cash, Spain's EURO 6000, Portugal's Multibanco, The UK's Link Interchange Network, Italian card schemes PagoBancomat and Bancomat and European card payment processor Eufiserv. The alliance is working to enable direct pan-European acceptance of debit cards without the need for an intermediary processor.
In a statement the consortium partners say the alliance will be founded as a not-for-profit Brussels-based company that will promote "the interests of its members".
Since establishing the alliance member firms have developed a rule-set for processing transactions across national borders which been released for consultation. The specifications have also been presented to the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
EAPS participants have also begun pilot testing of cross border debit processing and are currently conducting initial bilateral pilots between Germany and Italy, Spain and Portugal and Spain and Germany. Additional tests between participants will follow by the end of the year.
So far the Portuguese Multibanco scheme has officially signed up to participate in the network when it is launched, and the decisions of the other consortium partners are expected by the end of June. Other card schemes operating in the euro zone have been invited to join the alliance and EAPS says discussions are underway with a number of providers.
The latest news follows reports earlier this month that the EAPS scheme was being considered as the basis of a new debit card system to be established by a group of Europe's largest banks.
According to banking consultancy Lafferty, the group - which is thought to include Société Générale, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Commerzbank, Unicredito, ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank - is looking at the feasibility of using EAPS as the basis of a pan-European debit card scheme that would challenge those operated by MasterCard and Visa.