After a 15 year slog, the Single euro payments area (Sepa) hits a major milestone today with the full implementation for credit transfers and direct debits in the euro area.
1 August marks the (delayed) migration deadline for processing Sepa-compliant payment transfers, meaning that more than 500 million citizens and 20 million businesses can use a single bank account for all euro credit transfers and direct debits in Europe. Countries outside the euro area have until 31 October 2016 to migrate.
Authorities hope that Sepa will give a significant economic boost to Europe, enabling businesses to expand into new markets without extra payment costs. Every month more than two billion payments will now flow across the euro area in new standardised formats in what the European Central Bank calls the one of the largest financial integration projects in the world.
Yves Mersch, executive board member, ECB, says: "The successful completion of Sepa further accelerates Europe's financial integration. It removes barriers to credit transfers and direct debits which will no longer impede businesses or consumers."
However, the Sepa story is far from over - the ECB has already turned its attentions to the harmonisation of the largest electronic retail payment instrument: cards. Meanwhile, a newly-convened Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) has set up two working groups to explore the role of mobile and 'innovative' payments methods.