The European Central Bank has waded into the debate on bank progress towards a Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa), clarifying deadlines and urging more action on standards, security, same-day processing and e-invoicing.
In its fourth progress report on the Sepa project, the Eurosystem of central banks challenges the assertion of banking cassandras that the 2010 migration deadline is unrealistic, but accepts that the conversion of the present fragmented retail payment clearing and settlement infrastructure into an integrated European one will not be achieved by the decade's end. Instead, says the ECB, there will be an overlap between old and new structures dictated by national investment cycles and timelines.
The central bank governing body nonetheless insists that the 2008 interim deadline and 2010 migration window remain in place and that the new pan-European payment instruments are made available to users.
To facilitate the cross-over and co-existence of both old and new systems, the Eurosystem is calling on banks to address standardisation issues as a matter of priority, to ensure the adoption of common standards for exchanging payment orders and provide the necessary processing platforms for Sepa payments.
To further add to the burden, the regulator has called on the banking industry to develop a standard for priority same day payment and explore the possibility of including structured remittance information and a code for automatic reconciliation to enable full end-to-end straight-through processing of credit transfers. Banks should also refine the proposed pan-Euro debit transfer shceme to accommodate suitable solutions for different customer needs, such as business-to-business transactions.
For card payments, the ECB squashes proposals that would have allowed the establishment of local interchange fees and calls for a pan-European fee structure. The Eurosystem further calls for more detailed work plans for developing and implementing standards for every phase of the card payment transaction and for combatting fraud types other than those covered by EMV.
Finally, the banking industry is encouraged to examine the possibility of e-invoicing in greater depth and to provide a proposal on how the development of this new service form and its standards should be coordinated at the European level and in relation to the Sepa process.
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