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Brussels, 1 August 2014
Vice-President Michel Barnier welcomes major milestone for the internal payments market with the migration to SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area)
Today, a big part of the Single Euro Payments Area has become reality. In all euro countries citizens have now available a common and simple way to pay at home and across borders: SEPA credit transfers (SCT) and SEPA direct debit (SDD). Faster and safer transfers between bank accounts in the euro area will benefit the European economies at large.
Completing the migration of payments to SEPA today is a real success. Only six months ago, when we decided to postpone the end-date for migration to SEPA, the percentage of payments which had migrated to SEPA was much lower. The transition period granted by EU legislators in February had the expected effect on the market: giving some relief to the community while keeping enough pressure to ensure a continued migration.
I would like to congratulate national authorities, Ministries of Finance and Central banks as well as the European Central Bank that have made considerable efforts over the last two and a half years to this major achievement. I would also like to thank payments services providers, banks, the European Payments Council and all market players for their commitment to SEPA.
But we should not rest on our laurels as our mission does not end there: some remaining payment services, accounting for a small portion of the market in euro countries, will have to migrate to SEPA by 2016. The implementation of SCT and SDD for countries outside the euro area will continue until 31 October 2016. These are the next steps to further facilitate retail payments in the internal market.
The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is where more than 500 million citizens, over 20 million businesses and European public authorities can make and receive payments in euro under the same basic conditions, rights and obligations, regardless of their location. The SEPA Regulation adopted in 2012, aims to create the reality of a European Single Market for retail payments.
A major step in the implementation of the SEPA Regulation (Regulation EU 260/2012) was reached today as the 1st of August marks the point at which all credit transfers and direct debits in euro are now made under the same format: SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debits (SDD).
On 9 January 2014, considering that a full migration would not be reached by 1 February 2014, the Commission adopted a proposal to amend Regulation 260/2012 in order to provide for a transition period of six months until 1 August 2014 during which banks and other payment service providers would be able to continue processing payment orders even if users did not provide them in the correct SEPA format. This proposal was voted by the European Parliament on 4 February, adopted by the Council on 18 February and published on 20 March.
The introduction of the euro has helped to make cash payments anywhere in the euro area just as easy as at home. But until recently it was not so easy to pay for goods or services electronically in another euro area country: transferring money from a bank account to an account in another euro area country would take much longer and be more expensive.
SEPA has changed all this. It makes all electronic payments in the euro area easy: fast and secure transfers between bank accounts anywhere in the euro area, transparent pricing, valuable guarantees ensuring that payments are received promptly and in full, and banks assuming responsibility if something goes wrong with a payment.
SEPA is also more than just credit transfers and direct debits. It is also about card payments and might also cover internet and mobile payments. It will contribute to the further harmonisation of retail payments in the internal market.