Home News Europe readies for cross-border direct debit launch

Europe readies for cross-border direct debit launch

Published on 02/11/2009

Brussels — Europe steps up a drive to harmonise electronic payment systems with the launch of a cross-border direct debit programme on Monday but there remain notable gaps in the service.

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) direct debit programme lets companies and individuals organise standardised monthly euro payments in 32 countries from a single bank account.

The main beneficiaries will include the likes of mobile phone companies, energy or telecommunication suppliers.

For example, a Polish nurse working in Ireland could have a mobile operator in Warsaw debit a Dublin account each month to pay her elderly mother’s cell phone.

Some 2,500 participating banks will offer the service in November and all European banks must make it available within a year, according to the European Central Bank.

However, cross-border direct debits are not available in France — which is to delay implementation until November 2010, the deadline for the 16 countries that use the euro currency.

"It’s also up to the banks at this stage," says the European Banking Federation (EBS) while insisting that "the majority" are ready to come on board.

The transformation of everyday financial transactions across Europe began with the arrival of euro notes and coins eight years ago and then the launch of European bank transfers.

The SEPA system covers the 27 European Union countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It is based on BIC and IBAN identification numbers which follow a standardised format across Europe.