The SEPA Cards Framework bows out after ten years of good and faithful...

The SEPA Cards Framework bows out after ten years of good and faithful service

17 November 15

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If you are travelling in the European Union for a festive break or perhaps even further afield in the Single Euro Payments Area ( ), you should not experience any problem in the action of paying for your restaurant bill and souvenirs with your domestic credit or debit card. Paying with a card and withdrawing cash in any country is considered a normal and fully secure activity today. However, if we look back ten years ago, card acceptance outside one’s domestic country in was not always perceived to be a reality. Whilst almost all cards, points of sale, and automated teller machines (ATM) are now EMV-compliant (the standard for ‘chip’ based transactions named after Europay-MasterCard-Visa) in the European Union, only 18 percent of cards issued were EMV-compliant in 2004, and, even then, only 10 percent of points of sale and ATM terminals were able to read the chip embedded into the cards.

The Cards Framework (SCF), first created in 2005, has been one of the founding industry initiatives that helped to expand the acceptance and coverage of cards in . Owned by the European Payments Council ( ), this document has significantly contributed to the removal of many of the barriers to the development of the harmonised acceptance of all cards by merchants in the region. Whilst it has been much helpful to develop a ‘ for cards’, it has now reached the end of its active life. This Blog outlines the SCF’s main achievements, the reasons why it is retired, and explains how European cards standardisation will from now on be promoted.

The Cards Framework made a wider, more harmonised card acceptance possible

Payment by card is the favourite method of electronic payment of Europeans. In 2014, more than 47 billion payments (representing 46 percent of the total number of non-cash transactions) were made by card in the European Union1. Card payments grew by 10 percent each year from 2000 to 2012 (compared to approximately 5 percent for credit transfers and direct debits)2.

To support this trend, in 2005 the created with industry representatives the Cards Framework. Its goal was to achieve a ‘ for cards’ through self-regulation via a series of commitments which were entered into voluntarily by card issuers, acquirers, and schemes for general purpose EMV cards. These commitments covered interoperability, technical standards and scheme licensing arrangements. The implementation of the high level principles set out in the SCF helped the card industry to meet the needs of consumers and retailers, by delivering a consistent user experience to both cardholders and merchants, when making or accepting euro payments or cash withdrawals across . In the past ten years, the SCF, therefore, has benefited consumers and the European economy as a whole.

Because of the latest regulatory developments and the Cards Stakeholders Group’s standardisation work, the SCF is no longer needed

In an increasingly regulated payments context, the SCF has become out of date and superseded by several higher-ranking measures (in particular the Card Interchange Fee Regulation approved in April 2015). In addition, the Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG), the body gathering the European card industry’s stakeholders, with the support of the , has developed standard requirements facilitating the harmonisation of card payments in . The SCF has been implemented by the ‘ Cards Standardisation Volume’ (Volume) initiated and published by the and now produced by the CSG.

The SCF will no longer be active, but will remain available on the website

The has, therefore, decided to revoke the SCF, as of 1 January 2016. It will remain available on the website as a historical reference. However, it will not be applicable any longer. Its standardisation requirements are spelled out in the Volume produced by the CSG. The will continue its active participation to the CSG and contribution to the evolution of the Volume to help the market further achieve the ‘ for cards’ goal. I would like to take this opportunity to thank once again all the contributors to the SCF. I am sure that they will continue to help address the expectations of the market.

1 Source: European Central Bank 

2 Ibid.

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