The Single Euro Payments Area

The aim of the implementation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) was to increase the efficiency of small-value intra-EU payments by creating a common legal framework as well as applying standards and a common infrastructure.

Contrary to the expectations of regulators, the introduction of the euro, the single currency of the euro area, did not automatically lead to the unification of clearing and settlement flows. In the area of ??small-value payments this process did not take place because of the transnational fragmentation of the market and the different national payment legal frameworks. In response to this situation the SEPA vision has been formulated.

Since the early 2000s, in addition to the European Commission and the European Central Bank, the European Payments Council (EPC), set up by the banking community of the EU, has become a key player in the implementation of the SEPA project. The EPC, with the involvement of customers and various service providers, has developed the SEPA project and a single pan-European payment toolkit as its main element.

In terms of the development of the toolkit the general EU-wide framework for payment services, the Payment Services Directive (PSD) issued at the end of 2007, as well as the Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) issued at the end of 2015 were taken into account. The main features of the elements of the toolkit are that they are based on the same standards and they establish common and identical procedures for the payment models in rulebooks, the application of which is mandatory for payment service providers connected to the models.

Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union required the transition to SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debit payment methods in euro area countries by 1 February 2014. For non-euro area member states, this deadline was 31 October 2016, therefore, Hungary is also obliged to apply the SEPA payment standards for all euro transactions.

In addition to SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debit, common rules for instant payments have also been laid down. Although, in the case of SEPA instant credit transfer, payment service providers are not yet obliged to provide the service to customers, the ECB urges that instant payment solutions based on the SEPA instant credit transfer be made available to customers as soon as possible.