Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Euro Retail Payments Board: first meeting and outlook

On Friday, the 16th of May, the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) held its first meeting (with this agenda) in Frankfurt. The ERPB is the successor to the SEPA Council, which aimed at realising the SEPA-project. Whereas the SEPA Council was co-chaired by the ECB and the European Commission, the chair of the ERPB is Yves Mersch, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB.

First Meeting
The first meeting was dedicated to agree to the mandate, functioning and work plan of the ERPB. The ERPB Members decided to set up a working groups on post-migration issues relating to the SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debit schemes as well as one working group on pan-European electronicmandate solutions for SEPA direct debits. In addition the ERPB acknowledged and asked the Cards Stakeholder Group (CSG) to carry out a stock-taking exercise and devise a work plan with respect to card standardization.

The ERPB further discussed the expansion of the SEPA Direct Debit scheme (SDD) with a non-refundable (one-off) direct debit. It was agreed that the EU legislators would be asked to clarify legal refund-conditions when evaluating the Payment Services Directive and that a possible scheme would be launched only after this review was complete.

In order to further investigate the future use of pan-European electronic mandatesfor SDD, the ERPB set up a separate working group. Finally, the EPC presented the latest update on the migration to SEPA. Whereas the migration to credit-transfers was very close to completion, there remained work done for direct debits. The ERPB called upon all stakeholders in the euro area to complete their migration to SEPA payment instruments as early as possible and before the deadline. 

Outlook for the ERPB
The launch of the European Retail Payments Board marks a new starting point for discussing the future of European payments with all stakeholders involved. The inclusion of payment institutions and e-money industry can add considerable value given their different approach and background. These providers live and breathe Internet-based technology, seek EU-standardisation and do not have similar legacy-systems as the banks. I expect this to lead to fruitful debates and exchange of insights.

Some observers may cite the lack of legislative powers as a disadvantage of the ERPB. Others may wonder if it is possible to achieve results in a body that only meets twice a year. I would submit however that in ten year’s time, the sceptics will look back in surprise to see how the ERPB has positively shaped the outcome of the European debate on retail payments. The Dutch experience with similar standing committees (see this separate blog) demonstrates that there is a lot of unlocked potential that lies in the trust and bonds that will be formed and shaped by this collective effort.