SEPA – Objectives, components, implications

 

After the creation of the single European market and the introduction of Euro, the European Commission and the European Central Bank launched the idea of transforming the diversity of payments instruments in Euro into an integrated payments area – Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) – a market of domestic payments in the Euro area. As stated in the Green Paper 2005-2010 document, the European Commission has the objective to create an efficient, open and integrated financial market in the European Union and to eliminate the economically significant barriers.

SEPA is a major restructuring and harmonization project which will impact the many fragmented national payments instruments with the implementation of new, common business rules and technical standards. All electronic payments will be impacted and as a result, credit transfers, direct debits and card payments will migrate to common interoperable formats and processes. SEPA project will impact every participant in the European payments supply chain.

The purpose of SEPA is to create an European economy more transparent and competitive. SEPA will be the Euro area where there will be no differences between the domestic and cross-border payments. So, the customers will be able to make and receive payments in Euro, within Euro area, as secure and efficient as in the national context, using a single account and a set of pan-European standardized payments instruments.

The SEPA project does not only address to the states in the Euro area, but also to other states in the European Union, as to some states outside to the European Union (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), implying the interaction between the European banking industry, the payments systems administrators and the commercial sector from the Euro zone.

The SEPA project propose the creation of a standardized set of instruments, for credit transfer operations, direct debit, cards payments, other payments instruments through which a customer could make payments from its own account to any other destination in the Euro area, at a level of quality and price comparable with those of the domestic payments.

The participants to the SEPA implementation are banks, national central banks, payments associations and public authorities from every country in the Euro area. The principal role in the SEPA project will rest to the commercial banks and to the banking associations of the member states.

The main decision and coordination body of the actions regarding the SEPA implementation is the European Payments Council (EPC), which gather the European payments industry. EPC will have the role to manage and maintain the framework and the schemes, to further develop standards and business rules, to communicate with all the implied parties, to support and monitor the project progress.

Starting with 2007, as a consequence of Romania integration into the European Union, the Romanian banking community is represented in the EPC structures by the Romanian Association of Banks and is actively implying in the SEPA project implementation.

For information on the SEPA project please go to http://www.europeanpaymentscouncil.eu