EBICS for clearing and settlement of SEPA instant payments – the new Delta document as a milestone

Since the introduction of SEPA in January 2008, the EBICS transfer protocol has also been used in interbank payments for the bilateral clearing and settlement and for the exchange of SEPA payments with the Deutsche Bundesbank. Over the years the number of European institutions which use EBICS has further expanded. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that as of November 2013 the EBA CLEARING also offers EBICS as an alternative access for so-called "garage clearing" and STEP2.

The introduction of SEPA instant payments was the next step after the conversion to SEPA for a standardisation in the European payments sector. However, due to the real-time approach, this new payment method brings a special challenge for the use with EBICS. Whereas in conventional EBICS use file-based data transfer has so far been the main focus, for interbank payments the SEPA instant payments procedure requires a message-based approach related to transactions. Thus, in November of 2017 the EBA CLEARING successfully introduced RT1 based on SEPA instant payments.

For the support of EBICS in connection with the transfer and clearing of SEPA instant payments, in October of 2019 the EBICS company officially published a Delta document for the EBICS specification (see Use of EBICS for the Clearing & Settlement of Instant Payment Transactions, www.ebics.org). It describes the modifications to be considered for the processing of instant payments using EBICS 3.0. To meet the new requirements resulting from the real-time behaviour, the new schema ebics_inst_request_H005.xsd has been added. However, for the administrative business transactions of the instant payments the file-based EBICS behaviour and, therefore, the standard schema are still required. For the use of SEPA instant payments in combination with EBICS the new schema must be added to the overall schema.

Nothing changes when using EBICS in a customer-bank relationship or for interbank payments that do not include instant payments.

The Delta document Use of EBICS for the Clearing & Settlement of Instant Payment Transactions is a welcome development. In practice, EBICS is widely in use and many other scenarios are conceivable. In order to ensure the comprehensive and uniform use of EBICS, standards and their compliance are essential. Still, it must be possible to react with flexibility to new market challenges. This document meets both objectives equally well. Another milestone has been set on the way to standardising the European payments sector.

Author: Michael Lembcke
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