The creation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is an EU public authorities’ integration initiative in the area of electronic euro payments. The SEPA zone comprises 36 countries, including Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The political SEPA vision aims to create a euro payments area in which cross-border payments are handled as efficiently as domestic payments within the individual countries.
The European Payments Council (EPC) is the coordination and decision-making body of the European banking industry in relation to payments. The EPC develops, among other things, the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit (SDD) Schemes, which help to realize the integrated euro payments market.
Switzerland as part of SEPA
The EPC made a major political decision by accepting Switzerland among the ranks of SEPA members in 2006.
Since January 2008, credit transfers, and since November 2009, direct debits are made in accordance with the standardized SEPA schemes compulsory for all participating countries. Thus, the participating Swiss financial institutions have to respect the level playing-field in the euro payments area for their euro payment processing. Beyond that, while they are bound to the EPC rulebooks, they are not subject to EU regulations and directives.
Each financial institution that wishes to participate in the SEPA schemes is required to sign an adherence agreement, thus committing to the EPC that it will follow the SEPA regulations unconditionally. Furthermore, the EPC requires a legal opinion of each participant that confirms that the institution can indeed meet the requirements of the SEPA schemes.
In assignment by the Swiss financial center, SIX Interbank Clearing as the National Adherence Support Organisation (NASO) of Switzerland is supporting the Swiss financial institutions with the administrative issues and facilitating the registration process.