With direct debits and credit transfers finally out of the way, the European Central Bank (ECB) is turning its attentions to Sepa for cards.
In a new report, the ECB says that as the revised migration deadline for Sepa direct debits and credit transfers is just three months away, now is the time to turn attention to the harmonisation of the largest electronic retail payment instrument: cards.
In 2012 there were around 40 billion card payments in the EU, compared to 26 million credit transfers and 23 billion direct debits. Yet there is still huge potential for growth in card usage, demonstrated by wide discrepancies between countries: the average Swede makes 230 card payments per year, while Bulgarians, Romanians and Greeks make less than 10.
Yves Mersch, member of the executive board, ECB, says: "The euro banknotes and coins in everyone's wallets are the same in the whole euro area. Very soon, credit transfers and direct debits in euro will follow the same schemes throughout Europe. Now it's time to further harmonise and integrate card payments."
Sepa for cards will seek to harmonise the principles, business practices and rules, as well as the technical standards.
The ECB says that this will be aided both by the proposed regulation on interchange fees and the planned directive on payment services in the internal market. This, says the bank, confirms a key principle of Sepa for cards - the separation of the card scheme from the processing.
The report calls on stakeholders to play an active role in the Sepa for card plans, helping to create a competitive processing market and to develop and implement technical standards.