Banks protest as EU committee waves through Sepa rules

Banks protest as EU committee waves through Sepa rules

The European Parliament is set to approve Sepa migration end-date rules which also lay out technical requirements for new payments instruments and prohibit banks from charging interchange fees for direct debit transfers.

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 in December last year. 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.

In a sitting earlier this week, the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee waved through the proposals, which should lead to EU-wide adoption of single credit transfer and direct debit schemes.

Although welcoming the certainty provided by Sepa migration deadlines, banking lobby groups have reacted with dismay to political meddling in payment scheme development. Earlier this year, the European Payments Council warned Brussels to steer clear of devising technical standards for the new payments instruments, arguing that banks must retain their autonomy in the development of payment systems.

Now the European Savings Bank Group has waded into the fray, condemning the proposed ban on direct debit interchange, which they claim protects consumers from paying for benefits retained by creditors such as utility providers.

"This is not a helpful development", says ESBG managing director Chris De Noose. "This text was the opportunity to show consumers that pan-European initiatives can combine convenience for them and the policy internal market objective. This text could also have motivated payment service providers to continue and innovate. It is a pity that the European Commission proposal was not challenged much at Parliament Committee level."

The text adopted by the Committee will now be voted on by the European Parliament Plenary.

Says de Noose: "Both European users and providers of payment services now have to hope that the European Parliament Plenary takes a broader approach in order to keep alive the potential for both a consumer-convenient and innovative single market for payments".

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