PRESS RELEASE

The Eurosystem’s View of a “SEPA for Cards”

20 November 2006

The ECB is today publishing a progress report entitled “The Eurosystem’s View of a “SEPA for Cards””. In this report, the Governing Council of the ECB provides its views on some critical issues concerning the migration of card schemes to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), and at the same time alerts the market to some developments which could be suboptimal for European citizens.

Migration to SEPA requires card schemes and banking communities to decide on their strategic positioning within SEPA and then elaborate their business plans. The challenge for SEPA implementation is to make the successful transition to a more integrated market while at the same time preserving the efficiency and low cost levels that characterise the existing national card schemes in Europe.

The report clarifies a series of public policy provisions which are designed to ensure that SEPA migration does not lead to a deterioration of conditions for cardholders and merchants. These include the need for each card scheme to define and publicly disclose a medium to long-term strategy which is consistent with the objectives of SEPA; to protect confidentiality of personal data; to contribute to the design of standards with a clear commitment for implementation on time; to have a strategy on how to reduce fraud, and especially cross-border fraud; and to foster competition. In this respect, the report calls upon competition authorities in particular to define harmonised rules concerning interchange fees.

The Eurosystem will discuss the content of this progress report with the relevant stakeholders and monitor the evolution of the cards industry in Europe.

The report is published today in English and will be made available in other official Community languages in due course.

Media contacts