On Tuesday EU finance ministers unanimously agreed on standardized regulations for cashless payments via bank cards and money transfers. Costs, procedures and periods for such payments are to be adjusted to those already in effect in individual member states. The objective is to create a single European space for payment transactions (Sepa). The intention of the finance ministers is to realize some parts of this project as early as 2008.
Once Sepa ist introduced, money transfers will be credited to beneficiary accounts after an one-day period. Also possible will be debit entries initiated abroad. Existing payment methods will be complemented by a new European debit entry procedure.
For cross-border payments it will be necessary also in future to use the international IBAN account numbers and the BIC bank sorting codes. In the long run the Sepa provisions are to apply also to national payment transactions so that IBAN and BIC will one day replace the present account numbers and bank sorting codes.
Most affected by these changes are companies carrying out a lot of cross-border payments within the EU. Short crediting periods will have positive effects on rebates and interest payments. Companies with many EU customers will have to face additional costs when adapting their invoicing systems to Sepa.