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Foreign Exchange

Review of developments in payment systems 2010: SEPA and PSD

The development of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) continues to be of more importance to banks than to companies. For most companies, at this stage, SEPA is almost irrelevant, offering few benefits of any significance now or for some time.

The SEPA Credit Transfer system, which was a launched on 28 January 2008, is used for fewer than 5% of all credit transfers in SEPA. In addition, for most companies, there has been little if any improvement in the pricing of payment card services in SEPA, which is a mess as the European Central Bank (ECB) keeps changing the rules. The ECB is failing to understand that payment cards are ubiquitous and continues to encourage banks to develop a Europe-only debit card. RBS recently moved from MasterCard’s Maestro card to the Visa Debit card because of its greater global coverage. As an RBS spokesman explained, "VISA Debit offers almost three times the global acceptance of Maestro, making 29 million point-of-sale outlets available to customers across the world". Why would RBS or any other bank want to issue a Europe-only debit card? The two new SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) schemes, Core and Business2Business, launched in November 2009 unfinished and incomplete, are faring little better.

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