SEPA Vision for Cards

EPC Deliverables in the Area of Cards

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) for cards sets the conditions to offer European cardholders general purpose cards to make euro payments and withdraw euro cash throughout SEPA, with the same ease and convenience as in their home country. It also enables European merchants to choose which SEPA compliant card acceptance brand and product they wish to accept and with which acquirer(s) (i.e. a payment service provider that services card-accepting merchants) they wish to contract, without this choice being artificially constrained by legal, technical, or procedural issues. European consumers benefit from wider acceptance of their cards within SEPA and more choice of card products than before. European merchants benefit from a more competitive acquiring market, and are able to choose which card schemes to accept and from which acquirer.

SEPA Cards Framework

The European Payments Council's (EPC's) SEPA Cards Framework (SCF; see links below), outlines high level principles and rules that when implemented by the card industry, will deliver a consistent user experience to both cardholders and merchants when making or accepting euro payments or cash withdrawals. The SCF recognises the EMV standard for SEPA-wide acceptance of card payments. EMV is an industry standard to implement chip and personal identification number (PIN) security for card transactions to combat fraud. An important indicator on the progress in this area is the number of cards, points of sale (POS) and automated teller machines (ATMs) in the market that use chip and PIN for the authorisation of a card payment. More specifically, the percentage of EMV-compliant cards, POS and ATMs in SEPA is monitored. Migration to EMV in Europe is essentially complete: at the end of 2011 (estimates), 87.2 percent of cards, 94.2 percent of POS and 96.7 percent of ATMs in SEPA were EMV-compliant. According to the European Central Bank SEPA Indicators (see links below), EMV transactions in the euro area (as a percentage of total transactions at POS terminals) reached 79.6 percent in June 2013 (latest data available).

SEPA cards standardisation programme

The objectives of a SEPA for cards will be achieved through the use of harmonised, interoperable and free standards, which are openly available to all parties within the card payment value chain. The work of the EPC and the Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG) supports this vision. Created in 2009, the CSG is a multi-stakeholder body representing retailers, vendors, processors, card schemes and the EPC. The dialogue taking place in the CSG therefore, ensures the open and constructive co-management of the processes related to the identification of common standards requirements and implementation of best practices compliant with such requirements, which will promote interoperability and foster competition in the SEPA for cards. The CSG focuses on a cards standardisation programme that will create a better, safer, more cost efficient and functionally richer card services environment, whatever the card product or scheme may be. Specifically, the initiative aims at removing technical obstacles which prevent a consistent customer payment card experience across SEPA. The CSG encourages process efficiency throughout the card supply chain and, last but not least, adherence to the highest level of card payment security. The CSG develops and maintains the SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume (the SCS Volume). This document defines a standard set of requirements to enable an interoperable and scalable card and terminal infrastructure across SEPA, based on open and free standards.

In January 2014, the EPC together with the CSG published version 7.0 of the SCS Volume, ready for market implementation. Following the public consultation on its provisionary version 6.5 in June and July 2013, the CSG has processed more than 2,000 comments received from market participants. The six books of the SCS Volume version 7.0 cover a set of requirements applicable to card present (face-to-face) transactions to allow investment decisions and implementation based on stable requirements. All stakeholders and interested parties active in the SEPA cards domain are encouraged to roll out services and products in line with the requirements set out in version 7.0 of the SCS Volume in a three-year period, i.e. by January 2017. For detailed information, refer to this dedicated EPC Website page: SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume Version 7.0.

On 10 March 2015, the EPC together with the CSG published version 7.05 of the SCS Volume for a three-month public consultation. The SCS Volume version 7.05 has been updated to include new functional and security requirements applicable to card-not-present transactions, enhanced requirements related to the pre-authorisation of card payments and a cards processing framework. All stakeholders are invited to provide feedback by 5 June 2015. For detailed information, refer to this dedicated EPC Website page: Public Consultation 2015: SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume.

Card fraud prevention

Card fraud prevention is a top priority of the EPC. The EPC committed to migrate all SEPA cards and terminals to chip and personal identification number (PIN), based on the global EMV standards, by the end of 2010. With migration nearly complete, the focus now is on identifying and promoting measures to fight card fraud in a mature chip and PIN environment. In December 2010, the EPC approved the resolution 'Preventing Card Fraud in a Mature EMV Environment' (see below). This resolution sets the conditions for further increased security of card payments, based on the EMV chip only option and in the area of online payments with cards.