Companies have half a year to be ready to change their billing and payments

At a meeting today of the Estonian Payment Forum in Eesti Pank, the central bank, the Estonian Banking Association, the Ministry of Finance and company representatives acknowledged that the preparations by market participants to meet the requirements of the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) have been only modest. All the preparations should be made by 31 January 2014.

“It became clear from the professional associations representing business that very many companies are not yet really aware that the changes to credit transfers and the new bank account numbers that will be used from February 2014 are unavoidable”, said Deputy Governor of Eesti Pank Madis Müller.

In a little more than half a year, public sector institutions and private companies need to make sure they are ready to start using the international bank account number or IBAN form of their bank account numbers, rather than the account numbers they use now, and to follow the new requirements for sending payments and e-invoices to the bank. Companies will need to upgrade their accounting software and their billing systems by the start of 2014. For example, a company that now submits 100 payment orders to the bank in a single file will find that it has to enter each payment individually through the internet bank from next year if it does not make the necessary changes. The banks are advising their clients on what the changes are and what needs to be done. Further information and answers to questions can be obtained from the banks. Practical advice for companies about the changes will also be available on the Eesti Pank website.

Mr Müller added that if the companies start their preparations early enough, their payments will remain as smooth as they are now after the changes come in. “Many of the changes will take place automatically for customers, as the banks will make the changes on their behalf. However some companies will need to make changes, for example to make sure that their employees receive their salaries properly in February next year”, he said.

The biggest change for customers will be the change of the bank account number into the international IBAN form. The banks are developing an e-invoice standing order service which is based on SEPA credit transfers, to replace the legacy direct debit service, and users of direct debits will not have to change anything to use these, as a rule. The banks will inform their clients about the changes in sufficient time.

The central banks, public sector institutions and companies of the euro area are all preparing for the adoption of the pan-European requirements for payments, and the degree of readiness varies between countries. The report by the European Central Bank of March 2013 on the migration to the SEPA put Estonia among the last-placed countries in the euro area for the preparedness of its public sector and businesses. The report on SEPA preparations can be found on the European Central Bank's website.

Background:

The single payment area terms (SEPA) will apply in the European Union from February 2014 so that private clients and companies will be able to use one bank account and one payment card to make payments in euros across the whole of Europe. The SEPA regulation obliges banks to change over to SEPA payments and to make it possible for clients to make payments to any bank in Europe.

In addition to this, the banks will start to offer their clients the new service of cross-border SEPA direct debits, meaning that clients will be better able to make payments for services from outside Estonia. Who the providers of the SEPA direct debit service will be will become clear in competition in the market and will depend on client demand.

The Estonian Payment Forum was founded jointly in April 2012 by Eesti Pank, the Estonian Banking Association and the Ministry of Finance. The forum is chaired by Eesti Pank. More detailed information about the Forum, including the topics discussed there and the participants, can be found in Estonian at www.pangaliit.ee/et/maksefoorum.

Further information on SEPA can be found on the Eesti Pank website at  http://www.eestipank.ee/en/payment-systems/single-euro-payments-area-sepa.

For further information:
Ingrid Mitt
Public Relations Office
Tel: +372 668 0965, +372 512 6843
Email: ingrid.mitt [at] eestipank.ee
Press enquiries: press [at] eestipank.ee