The ‘Regulation establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009’ (the ‘SEPA Regulation’) was passed by the European Parliament and Council in early 2012 and was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 30 March 2012.

Only affecting euro payments, it “lays down rules for credit transfer and direct debit transactions denominated in euro within the Union where both the payer’s payment service provider (PSP) and the payee’s PSP are located in the Union, or where the sole PSP in the payment transaction is located in the Union”.

It requires PSPs “reachable” for national euro credit transfers or direct debits to be reachable “in accordance with the rules of a Union-wide payment scheme” - with immediate effect (for euro Member States) or by 31 October 2016 (for non-euro Member States like the UK). In other words, if a PSP was offering euro credit transfers or direct debits domestically at the time of publication of the SEPA Regulation (30 March 2012), or decided to offer them subsequently, then it will need to comply with the requirements of the SEPA Regulation.

As things stand, the European Payments Council’s SEPA Schemes are the only Union-wide schemes. The Regulation set the final date for “legacy” national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes at 1 February 2014 in Eurozone states. (This can be deferred until 31 October 2016 for non-Eurozone states like the UK).

It means that from that date, existing national euro credit transfer and direct debit schemes would have to be replaced by the SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit Schemes. The UK's sterling direct debit scheme is not affected. 

In January 2014 the Regulation (EU) No 248/2012 was adopted, The amended Regulation did not change the formal deadline of the 1 February 2014 in the euro area but allowed for a transition period of six months (until 1 August 2014) during which banks and other payment service providers would be able to continue processing payment orders even if users did not present them in the SEPA format.

Further Information and Guidance

The European Commission’s website provides further information regarding the SEPA Regulation here.

The whole concept of SEPA revolves around the principles of integration and harmonisation. Accordingly, it is important for there to be a consistent interpretation of the SEPA Regulation by payment service providers across Europe as part of the implementation process. To this end practical implementation guidance has been produced at European level by the European Banking Federation Payments Regulatory Expert Group (EBF PREG) which is available from the European Payments Council website

Payments UK has issued best practice guidance to help PSPs interpret and comply with the SEPA Regulation and information for consumers and businesses:

 

Payments UK own a Directory (the SEPA IBAN-Only Directory) that SWIFT developed and built through its SWIFTRef reference data platform which provides Payment Service Providers (PSPs) with a utility for deriving the BIC from the IBAN for SEPA payments in the UK. Further information can be found here