SEPA – Single Euro Payments Area – crystallises the vision of a single euro retail payments area in Europe. In SEPA, the cross-border payments of consumers, firms and public authorities are to be effected on the same terms and as efficiently as domestic payments. SEPA comprises 34 countries – the 28 EU member states, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, San Marino and Monaco.
The European banks' SEPA activities are coordinated by the European Payments Council, EPC. Under the auspices of the EPC, two SEPA products for credit transfers in euro have been developed. The first one is called SEPA Credit Transfer, SCT, and is used for transfers initiated by the payer. The second product is SEPA Direct Debit, SDD, which – like Betalingsservice in Denmark – can be used for direct debits.
Migration to the new SEPA products has been relatively sluggish. At the European level, political agreement has therefore been reached on an EU regulation to phase out the national credit transfer and direct debit products in euro in favour of the SEPA products by 1 February 2014. For non-euro area EU member states, including Denmark, credit transfers and direct debit in euro must observe the SEPA standards by 31 October 2016.
The Payment Services Directive, adopted in 2007, is a cornerstone of SEPA. The Directive harmonises the EU member states' legislation on retail payments. The Payment Services and Electronic Money Act implements the Directive in Denmark. In July 2013, the European Commission published a proposal for a revised Payment Services Directive.