The European Payments Council has warned the European Commission not to abuse its executive powers and take on a standards-setting role in the push to create a Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa), arguing that banks must retain their primacy in the development of payment systems.
In its Annual Activity Report 2010, the bank-backed EPC delivers a clear message: "Self-regulation by banks provides the most efficient means to create innovative, effective, secure and stress-resistant payment systems."
The EPC's message comes three months after the European Commission set out its proposals for EU-wide end-dates for the migration of national credit transfers and direct debits to Sepa instruments. The paper also incorporated a set of common standards and technical requirements that would be mandatory for all bank account payments in the euro area.
The EC says it was forced to make the move because self-regulation by the banks had failed, with minimal take-up of new payment instruments evident. Policymakers in Brussels noted that if the trend were allowed to continue, it would take 25 years for the full benefits of the Sepa to be felt.
The EPC has hit back at the criticism, saying that the "interference" of the Commission in payment scheme development is a worrying trend.
EPC Chair Gerard Hartsink says: "The development of payment schemes through self-regulation by banks in close dialogue with customers represents the established approach in all national banking communities. It is simply not warranted or efficient that standards should be defined and evolved by law on an ongoing basis. It is not appropriate for the European Commission to take on the role of a de-facto scheme manager and standard setter in the area of payments."