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SEPA Fact Check: The SEPA Benefits Projected by EU Governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (1999 - 2013)

SEPA is an EU integration initiative driven by EU governments and the EU institutions. Note: the European Payments Council is not part of the EU institutional framework

30.10.13 By Javier Santamaría

In August 2013, we noticed this remark on Twitter: “#SEPA is the most stupid thing ever. No one needs this [expletive].” With emails addressed to the European Payments Council (EPC) in September 2013, a commentator pointed out (bold added): “I would like to register my absolute disapproval of your SEPA payments system. How you think this will make Europe more ‘dynamic and competitive’ is really beyond me. (...) This just wraps us up in more bureaucracy (...) the authorities in Europe lack an understanding of what we need.” In response, the EPC shared an invitation to consider the testimony of payment service users who reported on the tangible benefits generated with migration to SEPA in the EPC Newsletter. The verdict of this market participant however, remained: “There is no justification [for SEPA].” It has to be recognised that opinions on the merit of further European Union (EU) payment integration may differ. The comments cited here and similar observations occasionally articulated in the SEPA debate however also indicate that misunderstandings persist as to who invented the SEPA concept and mandated migration to SEPA. EPC Chairman Javier Santamaría clarifies (again): it was not the EPC.

SEPA is a European Union (EU) integration initiative pursued by the EU governments and the EU institutions, i.e. the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU representing EU Member States and the European Central Bank (ECB). The EPC is not part of the EU institutional framework. The EPC is one stakeholder group among many impacted by the policy-maker-driven SEPA programme. The EPC is not responsible for the overall management of the SEPA process. The EPC is therefore, not in a position to address concerns of any EU citizen with regard to EU policies in the area of payments determined by the EU institutions.

To recap: with the introduction of the euro currency in 1999, EU governments and the EU institutions focused on the further integration of the EU payment market. In 2001, the ECB reiterated: “Like the [European] Commission and the [European] Parliament, the ECB is fully committed to the objective of creating a single payment area for the euro (...) pressure should be kept on the banking industry to obtain the necessary improvements.” At the time, the EU authorities expected the banking industry to contribute the resources required to develop European instruments for electronic euro payments. In response to these expectations repeatedly articulated by the EU authorities, the European banking sector created the EPC in 2002. In close dialogue with the stakeholder community, the EPC developed, among other things, the SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit Schemes. The EPC is an international not-for-profit association which makes all of its deliverables available to download free of charge on the EPC Website.

Migration to SEPA is mandated by EU law (not by the EPC). This article cites the rationale for SEPA as defined by the EU governments and EU institutions driving the SEPA programme and their expectations on the benefits for payment service users to materialise once SEPA is completed.

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Mardi 5 Novembre 2013