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Green paper on payments: the last chance for SEPA


11 Jan 2012



The Green Paper on card, internet and mobile payments should see the start of a long-needed shift to real competition in the European card market and allow consumers to benefit from new technologies. EuroCommerce urges regulators to take a strong stance, in particular on card fees.

EuroCommerce Director General, Christian Verschueren said, "We hope this marks a turning point for SEPA¹: following the Regulation on SEPA end dates which will abolish MIFs² on direct debit transactions, retailers now need similar positive action on MIFs for cards.”

Since its launch in 2008, SEPA for cards has not achieved its promised goals of increased competition and better service. On the contrary, retailers have witnessed the replacement of efficient debit card systems by very expensive, MIF based, V-pay and Maestro cards.

The MIF system has proven an insuperable barrier for all the prospective third European card schemes while the existence of the remaining national alternatives is under threat. It also operates as a block for other innovative payment means, such as credit transfer-based systems. Its predominance is likely to mean that new technologies, such as mobile phone card payments, will impose even higher costs on retailers and consumers.

Competition cases against Visa and MasterCard, have somewhat brought down the fees retailers pay, but are proving too slow in the short term and leave too much scope for workarounds in the long term. Standardisation and payment security are also key aspects for retailers, who must be fully involved in the set-up of the future payments landscape. We therefore welcome the Commission’s promised review of the SEPA governance model to take into account the needs of end-users.

The future of payments must be a return to basics. A payment is a service for which a fair, competition-based fee should be charged, not a profit mechanism for the banking sector. We call on the regulators to build SEPA on this simple, yet forgotten, truth,” concluded Mr Verschueren.

¹ Single European Payments Area

² Multilateral Interchange Fee


Marjolein Raes

Director Advocacy & Communications

T: +32 2 737 05 99