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SEPA was created in order to make the entire payment system more modern and efficient, allowing for a Europe-wide harmonisation of the rules applied in each country.

All the electronic payment services used within this area - e.g. bank transfers, credit cards and debit cards (PagoBANCOMAT ®) - will be gradually treated as "domestic" and made even simpler, quicker and safer.

Currently, the SEPA area includes the 27 EU countries, both those that have adopted the euro (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia and, from January 2008, also Cyprus and Malta) and those that use a different currency but make payments in euro (UK, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania). Included are also Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Within this area, it will be possible to take part in the payment systems in euro and the countries involved will be able to adopt the policies and standards set within the SEPA. The basic idea behind SEPA is the elimination of national boundaries and the creation of a unique payment area for the euro.
A payment made by the customer of a bank in Paris towards the customer of a bank in Milan will take place as easily, safely and at the same cost of a payment made on the domestic market.

Thanks to SEPA, customers will be able to pay with cash alternatives in euro in favour of beneficiaries living in any other SEPA country, originating from any bank account and using a uniform set of payment instruments.

All the electronic payment services used within this area - e.g. bank transfers and cards - will be gradually treated as "domestic" and made even simpler, quicker and safer.

In order for this to happen, the various national systems will have to be gradually migrated to the SEPA system, thus overcoming the current differences:

  • starting from 2008, banks have to be able to receive and offer its customers banking products and services accepted by the SEPA system;
  • in an initial phase - so-called duality period - the pan-European instruments will become operational in parallel to the domestic instruments;
  • it is expected that the migration of payment flows towards SEPA instruments will be completed by the end of 2010.

Despite the great effort required from all the players involved and the considerable investments necessary to modify the existing structures, this process will lead to significant benefits for the entire financial system.

Thanks to SEPA, banks will be able to reduce their costs by taking advantage of the potential economies of scale and extend their operations by offering services and products to the entire SEPA area.

At the same time, the whole system will become more efficient because the volume and choice of services will increase and prices will become more competitive. A benefit not only for individual customers but also for companies and the public administration.

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Last Update: August 19, 2015
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