Now that credit transfers (CTs) and direct debits (DDs) are nearly finished in the migration to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), the Eurosystem is now turning its attention to the largest electronic retail payment instrument: card payments. A new report, “Card payments in Europe – a renewed focus on SEPA for cards”, prepared by the European Central Bank (ECB) was recently released to explain the basic concepts, provide aggregate statistics at the European Union (EU) level, and present the Eurosystem’s views and policies on SEPA for cards. The ultimate goal is to create a competitive and innovative European card payments area.
In 2000, the three instruments (cards, CTs and DDs) were almost equal in volume, each amounting to around 13 billion transactions per year. In 2012 there were 40 billion card payments, around 26 billion CTs and 23 billion DDs and the number of card payments continue to increase.
“SEPA for cards is the next logical step in European retail payments integration”, says Yves Mersch, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB. “The euro banknotes and coins in everyone’s wallets are the same in the whole euro area. Very soon, credit transfers and direct debits in euro will follow the same schemes throughout Europe. Now it’s time to further harmonise and integrate card payments.”
SEPA for cards aims at coordinating the principles, business practices and rules, as well as the technical standards relating to card payments. The ECB has welcomed both the proposed regulation on interchange fees for card-based payment transactions and the proposed directive on payment services in the internal market.
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