European business and consumer organisations are warning that plans to create a Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) are doomed to failure unless payment systems end users are more widely consulted.
In a critical paper on the Sepa Direct Debit scheme - scheduled for introduction in November this year - the Payment Systems End User Committee (EUC), says businesses have little incentive to switch to the new payments instrument.
The Committee, which represents the views of eight major business trade associations, is also calling for an urgent review of the Sepa governance structure.
"Up to now, the payment users' community has been more or less ignored," say the report's authors. "Sepa cannot achieve its goals unless users are fully involved in its construction. End-users, payment system providers and regulators must all be involved on an equal footing in a new Sepa governance structure."
On Direct Debit, the EUC says that the current scheme proposed by the European Payments Council (CMF) offers fewer services than the existing national schemes. According to the EUC, end users have little incentive to switch to the new system. The position paper instead proposes a "CMF+" scheme offering a basic service coupled with tailored optional services at an extra cost.
EUC spokesman Olivier Brissaud says: "One year and a half after the launch of the first Sepa product, less than 2% of all credit transfers are made using the new system. Direct debit, which is the second Sepa product, risks a similar fate unless corrective action is taken before its launch in November this year."
The European Commission is currently contemplating the introduction of a final end-date for the migration from legacy national payment systems as a means to stimulate wider uptake of the new Sepa-compliant intruments.
However, the EUC cautions that such a move could destabilise the entire Sepa project.
"No decision on end dates should be taken until the remaining areas of disagreement have been resolved to the satisfaction of end users," states the report. "The setting of arbitrary end dates by legislation would result in a failure of Sepa."
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