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The harmonisation of European payment instruments is in jeopardy

In a press release published on September 4, European professionals discovered the European Commission's position on the future European direct debit project (the equivalent of 'prélèvement' in France). The Commission stated in the press release that it did not accept the interbank invoicing mechanism currently in place and which is the economic model for this service.

Even though banks have been seeking a clarification of the rules for months, they have now discovered that the interchange system is being radically challenged without any prior consultation or assessment of the consequences. The system currently guarantees the efficiency and security of this means of payment by fixing, in a clear and transparent fashion for all banks, the cost of participating in this cooperative system and the security that it procures for both traders and consumers.

It is worth remembering that the harmonisation of European payment instruments requires significant investment to create the infrastructures that will guarantee the project's success. This investment must be financed. In addition, the maintenance of the system and a high level of guarantee must be ensured. It is therefore vital for the banking industry that this investment and expenditure is covered by revenues under a pre-established plan. The only tried and tested cooperative model which provides this is the interchange system throughout the duration of the project.

The consequences of the commission’s decision

The banks also highlight the fact that the European Commission's decision will destabilise the market and generate pricing risk for clients. These consequences have not been assessed and the banks want to study them before committing to their implementation.

In any case, the option chosen by the European authorities will result in the multiplication of bilateral arrangements and is in contradiction with the SEPA objective of creating a single, open and transparent market for payment instruments in Europe.

Faced with this departure, the banks consider that the conditions for the launch of European direct debit, scheduled for the end of 2009, deserve to be re-examined. They are asking the European Commission to explain its position which is undermining months of work and may jeopardise the general implementation of the SEPA project.

French banks will also contact the members of the National SEPA Committee and inform them that they are not in a position to continue their projects until they have examined all the consequences of the European Commission's stance.


Colette Cova
email : ccova@fbf.fr
Tel : 01 48 00 50 07

Kenza Benqeddi
email : kbenqeddi@fbf.fr
Tel : 01 48 00 50 08

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