The European Payment Council (EPC) has published
a document that clarifies key aspects of compliance with the SEPA
Cards Framework (SCF) for payment schemes and issuers.

The EPC’s document states that any national card scheme can be
deemed to be compliant with the SCF if cards issued are technically
and commercially capable of being accepted everywhere in SEPA. This
runs counter to earlier interpretations of the SCF which implied a
card scheme could only be compliant with the SCF if it covered all
31 member states in the euro zone.

Those interpretations led to concerns expressed by the ECB and EC
that they would prompt domestic debit schemes to be ditched in
favour of the international schemes of Visa and MasterCard.
However, the EPC’s document stresses SEPA’s provision for cards
will enable many domestic schemes to develop into SCF-compliant

The Commission and the ECB applauded the EPC’s document, saying
they were “satisfied by the EPC’s confirmation that – in the
context of geographical coverage – the concept of compliance to the
SEPA Cards Framework only requires that cards be technically and
commercially capable of being accepted everywhere in the SEPA

The document said: “Therefore, any scheme, even an efficient
national scheme, will be able to become SCF-compliant, provided –
among other requirements – it is technically and commercially
capable of admitting banks from other SEPA countries.”

However, both institutions also urged the EPC to do more in
developing a “full set of technical standards allowing any card to
be used, for payments in euro, potentially anywhere in the SEPA
area”. The EPC also acknowledges more needs to be done in relation
to standardisation to realise a true ‘SEPA for cards’.

“One of the toughest challenges is ensuring differences in
technical standards do not present barriers to this vision being
achieved,” the EPC document stated. “Banks in consultation with
other stakeholders in the cards value-chain will need to define
which standards should be harmonised and, if so, in what way. Once
such standards are agreed, banks will need to promote adoption
within their own organisations.”