SEPA Card Clearing – What does it have to do with EBICS?

Card payments, in addition to the Credit Transfer and Direct Debit administrative operations, are affected to a certain extent by the standardisation of payment transactions within the SEPA Single Euro Payment Area, whereas they were previously exchanged in national formats. The following article explains what this has to do with EBICS.

At the Point-of-Sale, two general types of card payments can be distinguished:

1. EDDP* direct debit authorised by manual signature of the customer
2. direct debit authorised by entering a PIN into a card reader
The EDDP direct debits are processed as normal SEPA direct debits. Those involving entering a PIN into a card reader are not automatically controlled by SEPA. However, it would also be more useful to replace the national formats with ISO20022 formats. These ISO formats are specified in SEPA Card Clearing (abbreviated SCC), which is subdivided as follows:
  • Corporate Clients - Banking - Business
  • Interbank Payment Transactions
In both fields particular requirements for the process, clearing and settlement mechanisms, as well as the data formats to be exchanged, must be taken into account. The EPC (European Payments Council) has specified certain targets for SEPA Card Clearing. The Berlin Group (www.berlin-group.org), a payment system and organisation initiative encompassing all of Europe, has specified detailed and coherent targets based on ISO20022. This specification, currently at version 2.0, also supports the requirements of the EPC on SEPA Card Clearing.

The delegates of the Berlin Group include participants from: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and Hungary. The SCC specifications of the Berlin Group is therefore a Europe-wide initiative. Work is currently under way to implement the SCC. In Germany the DK (Deutsche Kreditwirtschaft – German Banking Industry Committee) resolved to shift the balancing of card-based sales which are not based on EDDP from the old formats to the SCC formats and processes of the Berlin Group. Corporate clients, card issuers, card accepters, technical service providers (e.g. network operators), credit institutions and payment transaction processors will all be affected by the move from old formats to SCC. Because SCC – as with SEPA – deals with much larger volumes of data, the architecture of the IT systems should be reviewed and, if necessary, reconfigured before migrating to the new format.

What does all this have to do with EBICS? The DK resolved that EBICS should be used in conjunction with SCC. As of 23 April 2014, the administrative operations were extended to those of the SCC in appendix 2 of the EBICS specifications. This extension concerns interbank transactions and the corporate client sector. New administrative operations for data exchange were incorporated into the EBICS specifications in the form of new order types and formats. For example, the order types and formats in interbank transactions are included for the Deutsche Bundesbank via EBICS for the new SEPA-clearer SCC service. The Deutsche Bundesbank is also planning to abandon the old format, DTA. Additional extensions have also been made to EBICS for the European SCC in interbank payment transactions. For interbank payment transactions, EBA-Clearing offers STEP2 Card Clearing via EBICS with these administrative operations across Europe. Widespread testing of SCC is currently underway. Acceptance tests with the clearing houses EBA-Clearing and the Deutsche Bundesbank should be concluded by Spring 2015. A full migration from DTA to SEPA and thereby to SEPA Card Clearing should be complete by 2016. Time will only tell of how much interest this will be for banks in other European countries. The diversity of members in the Berlin Group is, however, promising.

* Electronic Direct Debit Procedure

Michael Lembcke
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