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The European Payments Council (EPC) is a not-for-profit organization that standardizes payments in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). Through credit transfer, direct debit, card, and mobile payment schemas, the EPC aims to integrate electronic payments across Europe.
How Does the European Payments Council Work?
The EPC consists of 77 members, all of whom are payment service providers (PSPs) or PSP partners. By facilitating dialogue with European payment regulators and stakeholders, the EPC aims to create a single payment account or card for all SEPA-affiliated citizens and businesses. It is unrelated to the institutional framework of the European Union.
The EPC manages four distinct SEPA schemas, which enable more than 46 billion annual transactions across 36 countries. These schemas include:
- The SEPA direct debit business-to-business schema (SDD B2B). While both SDD and SDD B2B involve direct debits, this schema applies exclusively to B2B payments. The SDD B2B involves a shorter direct debit timeline and return period, and does not allow refunds.
- The SEPA credit transfer schema (SCT). By standardizing regulations governing European credit transfers, this schema unifies euro-based credit transfers and trade across the SEPA. Regardless of the number of SEPA countries involved, the SCT ensures all transactions are as seamless as possible.
- The SEPA instant credit transfer schema (SCT Inst). This schema, available 24/7, settles European credit transfers within 10 seconds.
- The SEPA direct debit core schema (SDD). This schema unifies domestic and cross-border euro-based direct debits across the SEPA.
PSPs process all SEPA credit transfers and direct debits. To do so, they use the aforementioned SEPA schemas—which are continually refined based on ever-evolving markets and technology—to facilitate transactions both within and across borders.
What are the Origins of the European Payments Council?
In 2001, Regulation (EC) No 2560/2001—which mandated the standardization of all cross-border and domestic transactions—laid the foundation for a system based on the then-novel euro. A year later, the EPC emerged as a response to growing demand for electronic payment solutions. Over the next several years, the EPC gradually introduced its SEPA schemas, culminating in the launch of its instant credit transfer system in late 2017.
Today, the EPC serves as the primary payment integration system for all SEPA affiliates.