EU to establish European Retail Payments Board to improve Sepa governance

EU to establish European Retail Payments Board to improve Sepa governance

The EU is poised to revise the Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) governance arrangements by replacing the informal Sepa Council with a European Retail Payments Board and by adjusting the role of the bank-backed European Payments Council.

The Sepa Council was established in the spring of 2010 for an initial period of three years following strong criticism of the Sepa governance structure and the lack of consultation with end-users. The body has had a handful of meetings to discuss various topics related to retail payments. But industry, especially small and medium businesses and retailers as well as large corporates, have lobbied for more extensive involvement.

In a draft document seen by analysts at Brussels-based Policy and Regulatory Report, the EC suggests creating a European Retail Payments Board (ERPB). In the new, more formal, governing body, each relevant stakeholder group from both demand and supply sides of the market would have at least one representative.

The EC and the European Central Bank (ECB) would nominate the chairs of the board.

Central banks of EU members states could participate in the ERPB as observers. Industry associations will be able to suggest their nominees, who, as well as the observers, would have to be appointed by the chair for a period of three years. The composition of the board would be reviewed every two years, however, and more observers could be admitted, according to the draft document.

The proposal also foresees the possibility of an additional "multi-stakeholder group" that could be established as the board's sub-committee "for a limited period of time for specific clearly defined tasks of strictly executive nature and entailing technical work only."

The ERPB would make its decisions on a consensus basis. Its objective centers on ensuring a level playing field for all market players in the retail payments business in Europe. The mandate ranges from identifying obstacles to credit transfers, direct debits, card, internet and mobile payments to putting together strategies to address any such hurdles to foster innovation and competition in European retail payments market.

In the draft staff working paper, the EC suggests that the ERPB would provide an annual report on its activities to the EC, ECB, EP and the Ecofin Council "to enhance its transparency and accountability."

While admitting that the European Payments Council is a private body that decides autonomously on its set-up and priorities in the field of retail payments, the EC draft working document suggests that it should also consider broadening its membership to ensure a better representation of the overall payment industry.

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