The SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area) came into force on 1 February 2014 and involves implementation of a Single Euro Payments Area for 33 countries: all of the EU Member States plus Iceland, order Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Monaco.

The legal framework for this new single payment area can be found in Regulation No. 260/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2012 in which the technical and business requirements are established for credit transfers and direct debits in Euros. It should be remembered that the Regulations are European rules that are directly applicable to the legal systems of the Member States and their implementation through national regulations is not necessary.

The aim is to introduce common payment services for all of the countries that form part of this single area to replace national payment services; in other words, we will now be able to operate at the level of payments throughout the whole of the single area of the new system, in the same way as we had been operating in the territory of a Member State. A clear example is the possibility of making direct debit payments in the single payment area.

The SEPA will provide EU citizens and companies with payment services in Euros that are safe, at competitive prices and easy to use. This initiative is part of the “Europe 2020” strategy, which seeks the objective of a more intelligence-based economy, in which prosperity is the result of innovation and more efficient use of available resources.
The SEPA only refers to credit transfers or direct debit payments denominated in Euros in the European Union, when the payer’s payment service provider and the beneficiary are based in the EU or when the single payment service provider involved in the transaction is based in the EU.

From now on, when payments are made by wire transfer or direct debit, it will not be necessary to indicate the Member State in which the account is based, the account number will be sufficient.

Although the new SEPA system came into force on 1 February 2014, Spain is allowed until 1 February 2016 to migrate certain instruments, including credit advances (Book or Memo 58) and receipts processed by the draft system (Book or Memo 32).

The former account number with 20 digits will now be a number with 24 digits, which corresponds to the IBAN number. Furthermore, all transactions will have a BIC code (Bank Identifier Code). All new credit and debit cards will be fitted with an electronic chip and a PIN will be used instead of a signature.

We hope that this is a new step in the right direction for Europe!