SEPA Operational Framework
Law 3862/2010 has transposed into Greek law Directive 2007/64/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, establishing common rules on payment services in the internal market of the EU, as well as in Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Monaco.
Law 3862/2010 covers all kinds of electronic payments, ranging from credit transfers, direct debits, card payments and remittances to mobile and online payments, excluding cash and cheque payments. Law 3862/2010 applies to payments in any EU currency (not only the euro), provided that payment service providers for both the payer and the payee are located in the EU. Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing technical and business requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro and amending Regulation (EC) 924/2009 was adopted in March 2012. This Regulation is also referred to as the “SEPA end-date regulation” and defines the deadlines for the migration to the new SEPA payment instruments. The deadline for the euro area is 1 February 2014 and for non-euro area Member States 31 October 2016. Regulation (EU) 248/2014 amended Regulation (EU) 260/2012 and set 1 August 2014 as the end-date for migration to SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debits (SDD). As of these dates, the existing national credit transfer and direct debit schemes will be compatible with SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) schemes.
The Regulation stipulates, inter alia, the following:
- an end-date, set at 1 February 2014, (Regulation (EU) 248/2014 amended Regulation (EU) 260/2012 and set 1 August 2014 as the end-date for migration to SEPA Credit Transfers (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debits (SDD)) from which euro credit transfers and direct debits shall be carried out in accordance with the technical requirements set out in certain Articles and in the Annex of the Regulation;
- the abolition, as of 1 November 2012, of Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) for cross-border direct debit transactions;
- the abolition, as of 1 February 2017, of Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) for domestic direct debit transactions;
- reachability of payment accounts. Specifically:
- for direct debit transactions, payees shall not require payers to hold a payment account with a payment service provider in a particular Member State;
- for credit transfer transactions, payers shall not require payees to hold a payment account with a payment service provider in a particular Member State;
- the abolition, as of 1 February 2016, of the requirement on payment service users to indicate the Business Identification Code (BIC) of the payment service provider when carrying out a payment transaction through a credit transfer or a direct debit;
- the abolition, as of 1 February 2016, of settlement-based national reporting obligations on payment service providers for balance of payment statistics relating to payment transactions of their customers; and
- mandatory use, as of 1 February 2016, and voluntary use, as of 1 August 2014, of the ISO 20022 XML standard by payment service users which initiate or receive individual credit transfers or direct debits that are bundled together for transmission, where the payment service user is not a consumer or a microenterprise.
With regard to the above time frame, Act No 14/10.5.2013 of the Executive Board of the Bank of Greece lays down derogations from the Regulation, waiving the following requirements until 1 February 2016:
- the technical requirements set out in Article 5(1), (2) and (4) and in points (1) and (2) of the Annex to Regulation (EU) 260/2012, in the case of credit transfer transactions carried out in the form of a "Non Automatic Credit", a domestic product supported by DIAS Credit Transfer (DCT), which is a service provided by DIAS Interbanking Systems S.A.;
- mandatory use, pursuant to Article 5(1)(d) of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012, of the standard message format specified in point 1(b) of the Annex to the Regulation by payment service users which initiate or receive individual credit transfers or direct debits bundled in batches, where the payment service user is not a consumer or a microenterprise. In any event, payment service providers shall comply with the requirements of Article 5(1)(d) of the Regulation when a payment service user specifically requests the above message format;
- requirement to provide the business identification code (BIC) for national payment transactions, as specified in Article 5(4), (5) and (7) of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012.
Furthermore, for the purpose of implementing the Regulation (Articles 11 and 12), Article 30 of Law 4141/2013 re: “Investment tools for growth, extension of credit and other provisions”:
- designates the Bank of Greece as the competent authority to ensure compliance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012,
- determines the penalties and penalty implementation procedures applicable to infringements of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012,
- designates the Secretariat General for Consumers at the Ministry of Development, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks as the competent authority to handle complaints related to Articles 7 and 8 of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 and to apply the relevant penalties, and
- sets out the competent authorities for out-of-court settlement of disputes concerning rights and obligations arising from Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 between users and service providers. (Hellenic Consumer’s Ombudsman, Hellenic Ombudsman for Banking – Investment Services and the Amicable Settlement Committees envisaged in Article 11 of Law 2251/1994).
SEPA requires the use of common pan-European standards and business practices for a fully automated and efficient processing of payment instruments. Indicatively, the following standards are used in SEPA payments:
The International Bank Account Number (IBAN), which is used to identify the bank and the account number of a payee. In SEPA, the use of IBAN is a prerequisite for the automated processing of payment orders.
The Business Identifier Code (BIC) is the unique identifier of Payment Service Providers (PSP); its details are determined by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
The ISO 20022 XML standard for the development of electronic financial messages, as defined by the ISO, encompassing the physical representation of the payment transactions in XML syntax, in accordance with business rules and implementation guidelines of Union-wide schemes for payment transactions falling within the scope of Regulation (EU) No. 260/2012. The ISO 20022 message format will be publicly available and businesses will be able to use it in communications with their payment service provider.