MasterCard and Visa need to be challenged by at least one new scheme if Sepa (Single euro payments area) for cards is to succeed, according to ECB executive board member Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell.
In a speech at the EFMA conference on cards and payments, Tumpel-Gugerell says a single market for cards is the "missing piece in the Sepa puzzle" and warns Europe needs to overcome the "current stagnation".
Citing research from the ECB and De Nederlandsche Bank, she says a new Europe-wide card scheme could provide a "decisive impetus" to solving interoperability and overcoming fragmentation in the market, benefiting customers and merchants.
There are currently three scheme initiatives and Tumpel-Gugerell has called on those involved to "get down to business now".
Tumpel-Gugerell also expresses concern that small national schemes such as the Dutch, Finnish and Irish, could be replaced by international ones.
"I would invite the banks behind these schemes to also consider the possibility of joining one of the new European card scheme initiatives," she says.
Technical standards on interoperability, security and market access also need to be laid down if Sepa for cards is to work.
Says Tumpel-Gugerell: "Without such detailed standards, I fear that technical fragmentation in Europe will remain in place or will even be re-established. Therefore, I believe that Sepa for cards will not be a realistic undertaking unless there are implementable standards."
She says the ECB backs the idea of the European Payments Council taking membership of the EMVCo and PCI SCC security bodies in order to exert greater influence on them.
Tumpel-Gugerell's speech also touched on "newcomers" in the Sepa world - electronic and mobile payments.
"Sepa provides a unique opportunity for a break-through regarding these e and m-payments, building on the basic SCT and SDD schemes, and on SEPA for cards. Linking up with the cards dossier, e-payments could be the answer to the security concerns many professionals and consumers have in the field of "card-not-present" transactions."
However, she warns that banks face competition in this field from other market players and could lose ground if they do not adapt quickly to the changing technological environment and payment habits of the younger generation.
"Therefore, we urgently need sufficient co-ordination and commitment at the European level for establishing competitive solutions for e and m-payments that at the same time ensure an appropriate security level."