What happened to SEPA (Direct Debits) lately?

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29 March 2010
The whole reason why SEPA was so slow to move on, according to banks, was that everyone was expecting the PSD end-date (November 2009) to arrive. After which, everything would have run swift and smooth. “Give us an end date” banks said, “and things will happen”. The PSD end-date has come and passed, and I still see almost nothing happening in SEPA-land, besides hearing the very many reasons from banks why SEPA is still at the starting blocks. Especially regarding direct debit payments (SDD). Ironically enough, the end date conundrum risks to become another nail in the SEPA coffin. Just some of the most recent statements help (regretfully) clarify my assumption. From the PSD official document: Mandatory reachability obligation of SDD (only for ‘Core’ DD, not ‘B2B’): • Transition period until November 2010 for payment service providers (PSPs) in national euro direct debit schemes. • PSPs outside the Eurozone: November 2014. This one from the “European Parliament resolution on the implementation of SEPA” (March 2009): • [SDD shall start] not later than 31 December 2012. This other one is from the EC "Feedback on the public consultation on possible end-date(s) for SEPA migration“, (September 2009): • There will be same (italics by me) migration date to SCT (credit transfer) and SDD. • The date will be the end-2012 or end-2013. An April 2009 EPC newsletter reads, instead: • One migration end date for both SCT and SDD. • Consideration should be given to the normal investment cycle of 3 to 5 years (my comment: that is, not before 2013-14). • When a new country joins the euro zone, it should implement SEPA rulebooks by the latest 5 years after the adoption of the euro. Finally, the “coup de theatre” from the June 2009 Payment system End-users committee’s (EUC) position paper on SEPA DD: • No legislation on SEPA end dates without the resolution of all outstanding issues. • The setting of arbitrary end-dates by legislation would result in a failure (again, my italics) of SEPA. • End dates for the three SEPA products should be considered separately (ditto). Bottom line: An end date is not the most important thing for corporate users to get SEPA up and running. It is apparently for banks. So, if banks are supposed to listen to their clients, shouldn’t it be about time to put aside the end date debate and start doing something REALLY serious about SEPA? Like, for instance, listen?

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