SEPA - Vision and Goals
What is SEPA?
The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) stands for the European Union (EU) payments integration initiative. With the introduction of the euro currency in 1999, the political drivers of the SEPA initiative - EU governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) - have focused on the integration of the euro payments market. Since then, the political drivers have called upon the payments industry to bolster the common currency, by developing a set of harmonised payment schemes and frameworks for electronic euro payments. The SEPA vision was set out by EU governments in the Lisbon Agenda, March 2000, which aims to make the EU more dynamic and competitive.
- Integrating the multitude of existing national euro credit transfer and euro direct debit schemes into a single set of European payment schemes is a natural step towards making the euro a single and fully operational currency.
- Creating a SEPA for cards aims at ensuring a consistent customer experience when making or accepting payments with cards throughout the euro area.
- Last but not least, the SEPA programme seeks to incentivise increased use of electronic payment instruments, while reducing the cost of wholesale cash distribution.
The jurisdictional scope of the SEPA Schemes currently consists of the 28 EU Member States plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco and San Marino. Please refer to the EPC List of SEPA Scheme Countries.
The European Payments Council (EPC) defines SEPA payment schemes and frameworks which help to realise SEPA (see 'About EPC'). To get an overview of the main actors involved in the SEPA process at a European level, and to learn about their specific responsibilities, refer to the EPC publication 'Shortcut to Who Does What in SEPA' (see below).
EU Regulation defines mandatory deadlines for migration to SEPA
In February 2012, the European legislator, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council of the EU representing EU Member States, adopted the 'Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009' (the SEPA Regulation). It defines 1 February 2014 as the deadline in the euro area for compliance with the core provisions of this Regulation. In non euro countries, the deadline will be 31 October 2016. Effectively, this means that as of these dates, existing national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be replaced by SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD). The majority of market participants recognise the value of setting a deadline for migration to harmonised SEPA payment schemes through EU Regulation. The EPC shares the view that an end date for phasing out legacy euro payment schemes for credit transfers and direct debits ensures planning security for all market participants. For more information on the SEPA Regulation, refer to these dedicated pages on the EPC Website: SEPA Legal and Regulatory Framework and The EPC Migration Tool Kit: Get Ready for SEPA.
The impact of SEPA beyond payments
The impact of SEPA however, transcends monetary policy and payment services. The European Commission expects the legal and technical SEPA harmonisation exercise to streamline business processes by replacing paper-based procedures with standardised electronic solutions such as e-invoicing, for example. These objectives are also set out in the European Commission Communication 'A Digital Agenda for Europe', May 2010. 'The Digital Agenda for Europe' defines the key enabling role that the use of Information and Communication Technologies will have to play if Europe wants to succeed in its ambitions for 2020. 'The Digital Agenda for Europe' is one of seven flagship initiatives of the European Commission's 'Europe 2020 Strategy'.
What are the benefits?
SEPA generates significant benefits for bank customers. The EPC offers a series of publications, which outline the benefits of SEPA for different stakeholders including consumers, businesses and public administrations (see 'SEPA Customers').
Selection of articles from the EPC Newsletter and other sources
- EPC List of SEPA Scheme Countries
- SEPA Fact Check: The SEPA Benefits Projected by EU Governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (1999 - 2013). Note: the European Payments Council is not part of the EU institutional framework
- Council of the European Union: Council Conclusions on SEPA (14 May 2013)
- EPC Video: An Introduction to SEPA
- EPC Podcast: Latest SEPA Developments
- Free Online EPC Newsletter
- EPC Publication: Shortcut to Who Does What in SEPA
- European Commission SEPA Page
- European Central Bank SEPA Page