The European Central Bank has issued a stark warning about the operational risks facing 'many key stakeholders' from a last-minute rush to meet the 1 February deadline for the transition to a single euro payments area (Sepa).
With only 100 days left to go for euro area countries to migrate to the Sepa credit transfer (SCT) and Sepa direct debit (SDD) schemes, the changeover process is now entering a critical phase.
Information compiled by the ECB and the euro area national central banks show that many key stakeholders have decided to migrate only in the last quarter of 2013, or even later.
"This approach generates operational risks and limits the ability to tackle any issues or unexpected developments that might arise during the changeover period," warns the ECB
"I have said this before and will repeat it: everybody has to be ready on 1 February 2014 or risk disruptions in their individual handling of payment orders," says Benoît Coeuré, member of the Executive Board of the ECB, pointing out that this is also the position of the European Union Council and the European Commission. "Since our first migration report, we have been emphasising the fact that both payments providers and users are responsible for being sufficiently prepared. And our message to them is still the same: don't leave it to the last minute."
Data compiled by the ECB indicates that planned migration to the Sepa credit transfer scheme is progressing well. A few countries in the euro area have already completed the process, while many others are progressing at a swift pace.
However, as for the Sepa direct debit (SDD) scheme, most stakeholders will only be migrating in the last few months before the deadline. While the overall preparedness of payment service providers "seems satisfactory", says the ECB, many of their customers, particularly small and medium enterprises, still face significant challenges in terms of being sufficiently prepared in time for the changeover.
The report outlines some of the risks posed by a "big bang" late migration. These include capacity issues and bottlenecks on the side of the providers and software vendors at the end of the year, and a lack of time for end users to adapt to the payment service providers' new standards as well as to test their own systems.
"A successful migration will require considerable effort, so it is important to further strengthen communication and cooperation among key stakeholders and competent authorities at the national level", says Coeuré.
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