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Version 6.5 of SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume is ready for public consultation

Version 6.5 of SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume is ready for public consultation

Michael Steinbach

CEO Equens

18 June 2013

Version 6.5 of SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume is ready for public consultation


The European Payments Council (EPC) and the Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG) published version 6.5 of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Cards Standardisation Volume last week. The document defines a standard set of requirements to ensure an interoperable and scalable card and terminal infrastructure across SEPA. All market participants and interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the document. Based on the outcome of the public consultation, the CSG plans to release a stable version 7.0 in early 2014 for market implementation.

The development and maintenance of the Cards Standardisation Volume is the responsibility of the CSG. In 2009, the EPC promoted the creation of the CSG together with representatives from four other sectors (retailers, vendors, processors, card schemes). The initiative aims to remove technical obstacles to deliver a consistent customer payment card experience across SEPA. The work also encourages process efficiency throughout the card supply chain and the highest level of card payment security.

Six books

The volume is divided into six books. This structure improves usability and allows for greater flexibility regarding the maintenance of the documentation. It facilitates the issuing of updated versions of the Volume with amendments only to individual books as required. The chapters are General, Functional Requirements, Functional Requirements for Remote Payments, Data Elements, Data Elements Spreadsheet, Security, Conformance Verification Procedures and Implementation Guidelines. Amongst other things, the books explain with a high level of detail the definitions that are used, the requirements for the different terminal and the protocols that should be used.

The creation of the document was market-driven. There is no regulation from upper hand, so the sectors had to make their own rulebook. The sectors (retailers, terminal vendors, processors, card schemes and banks) needed clarity on what they can expect when SEPA is introduced in 2014. At the moment every nation in the SEPA region has it’s own rules and regulations when it comes to money transfers. With the introduction of SEPA, it should be easier for card holders to pay in another country. A lot of changes need to be made to make that possible.

Terminals

The story is the same with the producers of terminals. Companies use different protocols for the communication of card terminals with banks. With a stable version of the Cards Standardisation Volume these ambiguities should be history. “When the communities conform themselves to this document, it should help to get rid of those differences”, explains Andy Makkinje, member of the CSG on behalf of Equens. “When something new is developed in the cards industry, they look more often to this Volume to see how the standardisation should be done. That’s a very good thing.”

The Volume aims to remove those differences between countries and producers. For companies it should be much easier to buy a card terminal in Italy and use it in The Netherlands for example. In the press release Ugo Bechis, Chair of the EPC Cards Working Group and CSG Co-Chair, says: “The dialogue taking place in the CSG ensures the open and constructive co-management of the processes related to the identification of common standards requirements and implementation of best practices compliant with such requirements, which will promote interoperability and foster competition in the SEPA cards domain.” EPC Chair Javier Santamaría, adds: “Continuation of the CSG’s self-regulatory role and the effective implementation of the harmonised SEPA cards standardisation requirements contained in the Cards Standardisation Volume is the most appropriate and efficient way to achieve further integration of the European cards market.”

Compromises

“The realisation of this document is something to be proud of”, says Andy Makkinje. “We had to make a lot of compromises due to the large number of participants in the CSG. It took a lot of effort, but we are proud of the accomplishment. It’s a broad-based European initiative.” The document is now ready for feedback from other participants. “When an important document like this is deployed into the market, it’s important that everybody in that market has a say about it”, says Makkinje. “A lot of parties couldn’t give their opinion, but now smaller companies or individuals can give feedback on the content.” A taskforce will collect the feedback and, if necessary, modify the document. The CSG expects to deliver a stable version 7.0 that is ready for market implementation in early 2014.