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07 January 2014

EPC & Cards Stakeholders Group publish SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume ready for market implementation

This document defines a standard set of requirements to ensure an interoperable and scalable card and terminal infrastructure across SEPA, based on open international card standards. The SCS Volume does not establish specifications or standards as such, but rather sets standardisation requirements.

The CSG is a multi-stakeholder body representing retailers, vendors, processors, card schemes and the EPC. Created in 2009, the CSG develops and maintains the SCS Volume, and focuses on a cards standardisation programme that will create a better, safer, more cost efficient and functionally richer card services environment, whatever the card product or scheme may be.

Following the public consultation on the provisionary version 6.5 of the SCS Volume in June and July 2013, the CSG has processed more than 2,000 comments received from market participants. The six books of the SCS Volume version 7.0 cover a set of requirements applicable to card-present (face-to-face) transactions to allow investment decisions and implementation based on stable requirements. All stakeholders and interested parties active in the SEPA cards domain are encouraged to roll out services and products in line with the requirements set out in version 7.0 of the SCS Volume in a three-year period, i.e. by January 2017. This means: the SCS Volume requirements for card-present transactions are to be met for new cards and terminals being introduced in the market as from 2017.

The European Union authorities driving forward the SEPA programme identified the need to create harmonised cards standardisation requirements throughout all countries across SEPA early in the process of integrating the market for electronic euro payments. This was reinforced by the European Economic and Financial Affairs Council, representing EU Member States, when it requested that the industry should set the conditions for further standardisation in the area of cards (see link below). This request was repeatedly echoed by the European Central Bank.

In response to these expectations retailers, vendors, processors, card schemes and the EPC jointly created the CSG. The dialogue taking place in the CSG ensures the open and constructive co-management of the processes related to the identification of common standards requirements and implementation of best practices compliant with such requirements. The CSG encourages process efficiency throughout the card supply chain and, last but not least, adherence to the highest level of card payment security.

Implementation of common standards requirements detailed in the SCS Volume will promote interoperability and foster competition in the SEPA cards domain. On the supply side, the version 7.0 requirements will bring benefits to the planning and stability of investments on terminals and on cards by market players, usually made with a five to seven year perspective and even beyond. Cost savings and stability are relevant in the physical card environment to favour cheaper, easier and broader acceptance both at national and cross-border levels. Cardholders, i.e. consumers, will benefit from increased security, transparency and indirect cost reduction expected from standardisation. Improved interoperability will facilitate a consistent customer payment card experience across SEPA.

There is no legal obligation to implement the standardisation requirements detailed in the SCS Volume. Achieving conformance with the SCS Volume is a voluntary process.

The SCS Volume version 7.0 consists of six separate books. This structure will facilitate future issuing of updated versions of the SCS Volume with amendments only to individual books as required, such as including card-not-present (i.e. mail orders, telephone orders and e- and m-commerce) functional and security requirements. The SCS Volume structure also provides for the option to integrate further books addressing aspects other than those reflected in version 7.0. A full release of the SCS Volume, where all books are reviewed by the CSG expert teams and updated, occurs every three years. Each full release will undergo a thee-month public consultation period. The publication of the next full release of the SCS.

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