SEPA started officially in January 2008 when the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) was launched. Since November 2009, the SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) scheme has also been available. SEPA implies that there is no distinction between cross-border and national payments, which further implies that legacy national instruments should not be offered in parallel indefinitely. However, the date originally foreseen for migration of a critical mass for SCT, SDD and card payments by the end of 2010 have become unrealistic. The use of SEPA standards remains low and is mostly limited to cross-border payments. The Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market and Services stated in his written answers to Parliament’s questionnaire that he intended to propose a legislative initiative for adoption by the College with the objective of setting one or more deadlines for migration to SEPA products for direct debits and credit transfers, as well as an initiative to improve governance. Furthermore, the issues of the application of multilateral interchange fees (MIFs) for SEPA Direct Debits and for card payments have not yet been solved definitively. The ECOFIN Council conclusions of 2 December 2009 stated that the Council ‘encourages banks and payment institutions to develop and actively market attractive SDD products and services meeting customer needs, while offering customers at least comparable levels of current prices, services, security and guarantees, thereby facilitating migration from existing national direct debit products to the new SDD products’.
Against this background, would the Commission explain:
- when it plans to announce a clear and legally binding end date for migration to SEPA instruments, what that date might be, and how it could be imposed;
- how it intends to definitively establish legal certainty as regards the application of a MIF, for both SEPA Direct Debits and card payments;
- as the industry seems to have difficulty finding solutions in this regard, how the Commission intends to encourage the industry to come up with proper solutions, in line with competition law;
- how it intends to answer the Council’s demand to establish before mid-2010 a SEPA governance and monitoring structure at EU level, and how the European Parliament will be involved in this structure;
- what the Commission plans to do to force the European Payments Council to take payment services end-users’ requests into consideration?