The Athens Clearing Office
The Athens Clearing Office (ACO) is a multilateral, cheque clearing system which handles the clearing of cheques denominated in euro and foreign exchange.
ACO is designated under Law 2789/2000, which incorporated Directive 98/26/EC on settlement finality into Greek law.
The supreme executive body of ACO is a five-member Council in which Bank of Greece holds the chairmanship.
ACO comprises a central clearing office located at the headquarters of Bank of Greece in Athens and regional clearing offices located at either a branch or an agency of the Bank of Greece, throughout the country. The regional clearing offices are under the jurisdiction of the central clearing office.
1. Participation in the System
Eligible participant in ACO is any credit institution incorporated or established by means of local branch in Greece. With respect to the domestic branches of foreign credit institutions incorporated in non-European Economic Area countries, the submission of a satisfactory legal opinion is required, referring to the law in force in the home country of the prospective participants and the implications thereof for participation in the system, with particular regard to provisions on insolvency.
The Bank of Greece participates in ACO.
2. Types of transactions
ACO handles the clearing of bank drafts and private cheques drawn on banks operating in Greece, whether denominated in euro or foreign exchange. Cheques denominated in foreign exchange are accepted for processing only in the central clearing office.
3. Operation of the System
With respect to euro denominated cheques, ACO provides for same-day settlement in the payment system TARGET2. Partial settlement of ACO’s clearing balances is not permitted.
After settlement, cheques are handed over by the ACO to the banks on which they are drawn. In case a cheque is not accepted by the paying bank (e.g. due to insufficient balance on the customer’s account), it is presented to the system and returned to the buying bank until D+1, where D is the settlement day. Returned cheques are settled with value date the date of return.
Cheques denominated in foreign exchange are settled outside the system.
The operational expenses of ACO are covered by its participants. ACO’s pricing policy foresees that each participant is charged according to its share in the total volume of cheques presented to the system during the precedent quarter. The minimum share to be charged is 1%. Furthermore, new participants are subject to an entry fee, determined by the Council.