SEPA Instant Payments

EPC Work on Instant Payments


Several European countries were planning to launch instant payment solutions, which would not have been interoperable between them. To avoid a fragmentation of solutions, which would be prejudicial to the electronic payments’ harmonisation in Europe, the European institutions, through the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB), invited the European Payments Council (EPC) to create a pan-European instant payment solution. This solution has taken the shape of a SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) scheme, with the version 1.0 of the 2017 SCT Inst Rulebook published in November 2016.

The ERPB’s agenda on instant payments and the EPC’s contribution to achieving it

During its December 2014 meeting, the ERPB (a high-level entity chaired by the European Central Bank, bringing together the supply and the demand side of the industry to address strategic retail payments issues) identified the need for at least one pan-European instant payment solution for euro that is open to any Payment Service Provider (PSP) in the European Union. The ERPB invited the supply side of the industry (in close cooperation with the demand side and with the active involvement of the EPC as a potential scheme developer) to make an assessment of the issues related to pan-European instant payment solutions in euro to be presented at the ERPB meeting in June 2015.

The EPC report on instant payments (June 2015)

The EPC submitted its report on instant payments at the June 2015 ERPB meeting, in which it considered that there was indeed a need for an instant payment scheme at SEPA level. The EPC judged that the credit transfer could be a suitable payment instrument, as a first step, for instant payments in SEPA. The ERPB welcomed the EPC report and invited it to present to the November 2015 ERPB meeting a proposal for the design of an instant SCT Inst scheme in euro, which could be adhered to by European PSPs on a voluntary basis.

The EPC proposal for the design of an SCT Inst scheme (November 2015)

In November 2015, the EPC submitted to the ERPB a proposal for the design of an SCT Inst scheme. This proposal, which was approved by the ERPB, covered the general features of the scheme, which should be optional and based on the credit transfer payment instrument, for transactions in euro in all SEPA countries. To make it as cost-efficient as possible for the scheme participants, it should have, where possible, the same foundations as the existing SEPA Credit Transfer scheme.

Several pending issues (such as the maximum number of seconds needed to process an SCT Inst transaction, and the maximum amount in euro per SCT Inst transaction) still needed to be addressed, in close dialogue with the payment stakeholders.

A public consultation on the draft SCT Inst scheme was organised in 2016

From 12 April to 10 July 2016, a proposed SCT Inst Rulebook was subject to a public consultation, open to any stakeholder. The rulebook described the business and technical rules that all PSPs wishing to adhere to this optional scheme should follow. 

Over 350 comments were received during the public consultation. All were analysed by the EPC, and presented to the EPC Stakeholder Forums (i.e. the EPC Scheme Technical Forum (ESTF) and the EPC Scheme End-User Forum (SEUF)  at their respective meetings in August 2016. The stakeholders’ feedback was taken into account by the EPC, in addition to the comments received during the public consultation, in the finalised version of the SCT Inst Rulebook.

Publication of the first version of the SCT Inst Rulebook, in effect from November 2017 to November 2019

On 30 November 2016, the EPC published the first version of the SCT Inst Rulebook.
The SCT Inst scheme enters into force on 21 November 2017, to leave enough time for PSPs to implement the necessary changes in their organisations and to adhere to the SCT Inst scheme.

Further evolution of the SCT Inst scheme

The EPC develops the SEPA payment schemes in close dialogue with all stakeholders. As set out in the rulebooks, the EPC SEPA schemes evolve based on a transparent change management process. The principles governing the evolution of the SEPA schemes are set out in the Scheme Management Internal Rules, which are an integral part of the rulebooks.

The scheme change management process provides all stakeholders with the opportunity to participate; i.e. to introduce change requests to the schemes.

The next scheme change management cycle will take place in 2018. Stakeholders are invited to submit change requests to the SCT Inst Rulebook by 31 December 2017 by completing a dedicated template. The received change requests will be considered with regard to the rulebook version and associated implementation guidelines to be published in November 2018 to take effect in November 2019.

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