In a busy week for The European Union’s law makers, an agreement has finally been put in place to increase the ease with which businesses and consumers can make and receive bank payments across member states. The Single European Payments Area (SEPA) legislation has been agreed and will come into force on February 1st 2014, forcing banks to be more transparent about international payments and eliminate hidden charges.
The changes brought about by SEPA are intended to save around €123 billion in bank charges over six years through cuts in transaction fees billed to businesses within the EU. The major benefit of SEPA however will be the reduction in the number of bank accounts required for a business to trade effectively with the Eurozone to just one.
SEPA will allow companies or individuals to maintain a single bank account in any European country of their choice and make Euro transactions to any other account, anywhere in Europe. Individuals working ‘abroad’ will also benefit as they will no longer be required to open a new bank account in the host country; payments can still be made to their bank at home minimising the problems associated with setting up a new account in a foreign country.
MEPs are also expecting the efficiencies created by SEPA to encourage further use of electronic invoicing across member states. The bulk of the estimated €123 billion in savings is predicted to come from the ease of making and receiving electronic payments coupled with e-invoicing. This will create a more efficient, inter-operable framework.
Technically SEPA has been in force since January 2008, but a low take up has forced legislators’ hands. This latest decision by MEPs ensures that the February 2014 deadline is legally binding.