The European banking industry established the European Payments Council (EPC) in 2002 as its coordination and decision-making body on issues relating to payments. The EPC consists of 74 members representing banks, banking communities and payment institutions. More than 360 professionals from 32 countries are directly involved in the work of the EPC. The European Central Bank (ECB) takes part as an observer in the EPC’s working and support groups. The ECB also takes part as an observer in the Plenary, which is the EPS’s decision-making body.
The EPC is a non-profit organisation. Its main purpose is to support and promote the creation and development of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The EPC has established rules for the SEPA credit transfer and direct debit schemes, and frameworks for cards and infrastructures. The EPC does not develop payment products for end users. This is carried out by European payment service providers.
The European clearing and settlement industry provides the infrastructure needed for processing payment transactions. To ensure the smooth processing of SEPA payments and reachability of all participants, the EPC established principles for the SEPA scheme-compliance of clearing and settlement mechanisms (CSMs) (PE-ACH/CSM Framework). The European Automated Clearing House Association (EACHA) consists of 24 European automated clearing houses (ACHs) and developed a technical interoperability framework for infrastructures. The STEP2 service by EBA Clearing provides reach using a different approach. The Eurosystem has specified criteria for the SEPA-compliance of the clearing and settlement industry.
The EPC created the Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG), which brings together representatives of all relevant sectors, including schemes, processors, vendors and retailers, as well as payment service providers. The aim is to reach a consensus on the SEPA cards standardisation programme in order to realise the vision of a SEPA for cards and to agree on timelines for their application. The CSG supports the EPC in the maintenance and enhancement of the SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume – Book of Requirements.
Different user groups have different needs with regard to using SEPA, for instance depending on whether they are consumers, retailers, other small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies or public administrations. An increasing number of user groups contribute to the SEPA project through associations at the European level.
For examples of European associations of users, please see the composition of the SEPA Council.
One of the Eurosystem’s mandates is to ensure the smooth operation of payment systems and instruments in euro. The ECB, together with the euro area national central banks, therefore support the SEPA project and specify and monitor the SEPA objectives, for example in SEPA progress reports.
The European Commission, in particular the DG Internal Market and Services and the DG Competition, support the development of SEPA as an important step towards the creation of a single market for euro payments. The European Commission conducts surveys among public administrations about their preparedness and migration to SEPA. It also chairs the EU Forum of national SEPA Coordination Committees and launched an initiative to explore the situation of the European market for card, internet, and mobile payments.
More importantly, on the initiative of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council have provided the necessary legal basis for the European payments market and defined end dates for the migration to credit transfers and SEPA direct debits.
The ministries of finance support SEPA through the ECOFIN Council. Public administrations create high volumes of daily payment transactions. Consequently, their migration to SEPA provides payment service users with an incentive to migrate, as it allows them to gradually become accustomed with SEPA payment instruments.