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ECB floats November 2013 deadline for direct debit switch
The Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa) aims to simplify direct debit payments in the 27-country European Union. It would enable firms to take payments from customers' accounts in other countries and allow consumers to use their debit cards across the bloc.
In the text of a speech given in Brussels last week published on the ECB's website, ECB Executive Board member Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell criticised the slow progress made with the project.
"In August 2010 only 9.3 percent of all euro area credit transfers were processed as SEPA credit transfers, and only a share of well below 1 percent of all euro area direct debits were processed as SEPA direct debits" she said.
She said it remained key to have a formal agreement on payment fees rather than a loose deal and floated a November 2013 deadline for the completion of the changeover.
"On the basis of an assessment of the migration efforts deemed necessary, the ECB preferred migration end-date for the credit transfer scheme would be November 2012."
"As a logical consequence of this, the ECB would envisage an end-date of November 2013 for the direct debit scheme" she added.
The European Council and the European Parliament, rather than the ECB, have the final say on the switchover process.
Under the Sepa rollout, all payment cards issued from the end of 2010 are required to be compliant so that customers can use their credit and debit cards anywhere in the EU.
Last year, a Capgemini study estimated the cumulative benefits of Sepa would total 123 billion euros (73 billion pounds) over six years.