European businesses are largely unaware of and unprepared for the introduction of a Single European Payments Area, despite persistent complaints that cross-border transaction costs are damaging their competitiveness, according to research by UK payments house Voca.
According to the survey of businesses across UK, Germany, France and Italy, two thirds of firms that make international payments believe the cost is too high, while a third believe that the payments process takes too long.
Says David Sear, commercial director, Voca: "Leading European businesses are seeing red when it comes to cross border transactions. It should be fast, easy and cost effective to make an international payment."
Sear says it is vital that these business views are reflected in the European Union's Single European Payments Area (Sepa) directive, aimed at driving down cross-border payment transaction costs by 2008, and then delivered by the banks and processing partners.
The survey also shows that UK business awareness of Sepa is the lowest amongst the countries surveyed. Just 15% of UK organisations are aware of the initiative and its benefits, says Voca, compared to 18% in France, 24% in Italy and 33% in Germany.
Voca warns that failure to understand the impact of Sepa could leave UK businesses last in the queue and at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Sear says UK business may lose out as other countries capitalise on the economic growth benefits delivered by the creation of a single, fast and efficient European payments market.