European Commission moves closer to enforcing Sepa end-game

European Commission moves closer to enforcing Sepa end-game

The European Commission is in talks with member states about setting a deadline for the migration of national payment schemes to the new Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) after a public consultation exercise showed widespread support for the move.

The EC initiated consultation with key stakeholders in June on whether and how deadlines should be set for the migration of existing national credit transfers and direct debits to the new Sepa-compliant payment instruments.

The results showed that "a large majority" of respondents support the idea of enforcing dates for the use of legacy payment instruments, says the EC, although users expressed concerns about quality issues relating to direct debits and the need for enough time to become acquainted with the new products.

In July, a coalition of payments systems users published a highly critical report on the Sepa project and the lack of consultation with end-users, warning that the setting of an arbitrary end-date could destabilise the entire scheme.

One option under consideration by the Commission is to set separate deadlines for Sepa credit transfers and direct debits, since both schemes were not launched at the same time and do not have the same level of maturity.

Internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy says: "Setting clear deadlines for the migration to Sepa would send a strong signal that Sepa is an irreversible process. It would provide certainty and predictability and act as a strong incentive for both industry and users to speed up migration."

Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 October, 2009, 17:15Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The decision to separate the launches of the SEPA Credit Transfers and SEPA Direct Debits schemes was taken as a result of the PSD implications, rather than this being the most efficient approach. With the infrastructures for both set to be finally in place by the end of 2010, it would be folly to overcomplicate the process once again by splitting the conversion of domestic instruments. SEPA is about establishing a more stable and standardised payments environment and it would therefore be better to set a migation date for both with sufficient time for the migration to be thoroughly planned 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 October, 2009, 14:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

So it's established that there is widespread consensus among key stakeholders about the benefits of setting a SEPA deadline, yet many questions still remain. The report makes mention that "the EC is in talks with member states about setting a deadline" but it is unclear what this actually means. To whom is the EC talking- politicians, regulators, financial institutions? And could it mean a different deadline in each member state?

Given the feedback from the coalition of payments systems in July that end users weren't being consulted, it seems that is still the case here. So it's very much sounding like 'here we go again' - much talk, much edging around the subject, but precious little evidence of action.

Despite continuous discussions, agreements and consultations we are still awaiting a decision on an end date that is truly comprehensive and definitive. Would someone please get on with this before we all lose interest?