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Role of the EPC in the SEPA Process


The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a European Union (EU) integration initiative pursued by the EU institutions. These are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU representing EU governments and the European Central Bank (ECB). With the introduction of the euro currency in 1999, the political drivers have focused on the integration of the euro payments market. SEPA compliance requirements that must be met by payment service users and providers are determined by the EU institutions in accordance with their specific competences.

When the EU institutions first launched the SEPA process, they expected the banking industry to contribute the resources required to develop European instruments for electronic euro payments.

In response to these expectations, the European banking sector created the European Payments Council (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. 

It is important to note that the EPC is not part of the EU institutional framework. The EPC has, therefore, no role in the adoption of any EU laws or other regulatory initiatives establishing SEPA compliance requirements.

Launch of the SEPA process: EU institutions call on the banking industry to develop harmonised SEPA payment schemes

With the introduction of the euro currency in 1999, EU governments, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the ECB called on the banking industry to develop harmonised schemes for electronic euro payments.

  • September 1999: the ECB commented in a press release: "Despite the introduction of the euro, however, there is still a clear gap between the service levels of domestic and cross-border retail payment systems (...). Indeed, the single currency environment argues strongly in favour of a single payment area."
  • November 2000: in his speech, entitled: 'Establishing a Single Payment Area', delivered at the 'Round Table on Retail Payments in the Internal Market' organised by the European Commission, Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, then in charge of the Internal Market and Taxation, stressed: "The Commission's political objective is exactly that: a modern Single Payment Area for the entire EU where there is no frontier effect for cross-border payments."
  • September 2001: the ECB reiterated: “Like the Commission and the [European] Parliament, the ECB is fully committed to the objective of creating a single payment area for the euro. We therefore share the view that pressure should be kept on the banking industry to obtain the necessary improvements.” (The sources of the statements cited are included with the links in the information box at the foot of this page).

The SEPA payment schemes and frameworks, delivered by the EPC at the request of the EU authorities and in close dialogue with the customer community, help to realise the political SEPA vision. The EPC however, is not responsible for the overall management of the SEPA process.

The next phase: contributing and facilitating SEPA solutions in a multi-stakeholder environment

It is important to note that today, the EU authorities expect that SEPA developments are facilitated by multi-stakeholder interaction involving, essentially, representatives of all impacted parties on the demand, supply and regulatory sides. The Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) was created by the ECB in December 2013 for that purpose. The ERPB, chaired by the ECB, helps foster “the development of an integrated, innovative and competitive market for retail payments in euro in the EU”. Members of the ERPB represent the demand and supply sides of the payments market. The EPC is a member of the ERPB. EU national central banks also participate in the ERPB. The European Commission acts as an observer.

For more information on multi-stakeholder interaction in SEPA, refer to the following EPC Website pages and the sources included in the information box at the foot of this page:

  • SEPA at a Glance: the Infographic. (This infographic provides a timeline highlighting key milestones of SEPA roll-out and an overview of the actors involved in the SEPA process at the European level and their interaction.)
  • About SEPA - The Political Drivers. (The political drivers of the SEPA process are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU representing EU governments, and the ECB.)
  • SEPA Legal and Regulatory Framework. (Since the late 1990s, the EU co-legislators, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council of the EU representing EU Member States' governments, adopted several legislative acts designed to drive forward the integration of the euro payments market.)

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