European Central Bank: It’s Time to Focus on Payment Cards (April 30, 2014)
The European Central Bank isn’t waiting for the Aug. 1 SEPA compliance deadline for direct debits and credit transfers to turn its attention to card transactions. The ECB published a report yesterday outlining its opinions and policies on Single Euro Payments Area compliance for cards along with card usage statistics for the EU.
SEPA is an initiative of the European banking industry that will make all electronic payments across the euro area—e.g., by credit card, debit card, bank transfer or direct debit—as easy as domestic payments.
“Card Payments in Europe—a Renewed Focus on SEPA for Cards” says that while consistent business practices are essential for an integrated card payments market, they are not sufficient for achieving it, and that the development and deployment of common standards and testing are crucial to ensuring that any card can be used at any terminal in Europe.
Underscoring the importance of a focus on payment cards, the report also points out that cards are the most frequently used and fastest-growing form of retail payment on the continent. In 2000, payment cards, credit transfers and direct debits were nearly equal in volume, with approximately 13 billion transactions per year each. In 2012, however, there were 40 billion card payments, approximately 26 billion credit transfers and 23 billion direct debits—and the number of card payments per capita continues to increase in every EU country.
“SEPA for cards is the next logical step in European retail payments integration. Very soon, credit transfers and direct debits in euro will follow the same schemes throughout Europe,” said Yves Mersch, ECB executive board member. After a sluggish start, SEPA compliance for credit transfers and direct debits are nearing completion. The compliance deadline is Aug. 1.
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