Formatting errors in EBICS orders – test services can help

EBICS has been specifically designed for secure, high-performance data transfers with files of any size between banks and corporate customers. For payment orders, the content of a file that is uploaded to the EBICS server must match the defined business transaction (order type, FileFormat parameter or BTF) and the respective format specifications. When payments are submitted, collection files with single transactions grouped by ordering party accounts are common practice. The protocol creation (HAC and PTK) for server-side EBICS processes is partly format-specific for payment orders. The authorisation checks and the protocol creation therefore require that the EBICS bank server knows and can read the submitted format at least in the relevant places (for example, ordering party account and amount). In order to read the information, the EBICS bank server performs a format check. The EBICS bank server usually aborts the check as soon as the first formatting error is detected. The order is rejected due to the formatting error and documented in the customer protocol.
Why is the file not fully checked and why are the error details not written into the customer protocol?
There are several reasons for this. First of all, the usual service agreement for e-banking via EBICS includes the upload and fast processing of correct files. Extensive format verification with an error protocol is not included and also not the core task of an EBICS bank server. Furthermore, the bank server capacities are to be used for the immediate processing of format-compliant orders and not for the analysis of incorrect files.

But how can a bank offer its corporate customers a service that increases the quality of payment orders in terms of format and content without adding unnecessary load onto the EBICS bank server?
Customers could use test services such as the ISO 20022 test platform for this purpose. As part of the harmonisation of Swiss payments, Swiss banks already offer their customers a test platform for testing incoming and outgoing payment transaction formats.

The test platform mimics the specific production conditions of the bank. It can validate XML-based customer-bank messages and simulate the bank-to-customer interface.

An extension of the ISO 20022 test platform towards payment order checks for specific formatting conventions and content can improve the quality of the file even further. A comprehensive format verification of payment orders carried out in advance enables errors to be identified quickly and easily using a detailed error log.

Files that are invalid with regard to format and content can be detected and corrected in a preliminary check by a test service before they are uploaded to the EBICS server.


Authors: Aline Wendler and Michael Lembcke
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