All euro countries together on the road to SEPA
In an effort to make payments in Europe easier and more efficient, the Netherlands and the other euro countries have embarked on the road towards a single euro payments area, SEPA. For this purpose, banks in Europe developed a European credit transfer and a European direct debit transfer. They also made agreements about creating a European debit card payments market. In a few years, the European payment systems must have replaced the national ones, so that throughout the euro area people can pay in the same manner, both in their home countries and abroad.
35% of consumers are familiar with SEPA
Although the Netherlands has almost entirely switched over to the new chip-based debit card technology and the Dutch can increasingly use their debit cards for payments abroad, developments in European credit transfers and direct debits have largely remained unnoticed. These payment methods are rarely used, in particular for domestic payments within the Netherlands. This is expected to change as more and more banks and companies will be actively offering and using the European payment systems. At the same time, banks are still working on the adjustment of the European transfer systems, so that they will be just as easy to use as the current domestic transfers. It therefore does not really come as a surprise that consumers’ familiarity with SEPA is still low; about 65% of the Dutch have never heard of SEPA, according to the DNB survey.
IBAN, where can I find it?
In order to speed up the migration to SEPA, European legislation is being drafted that will require banks, companies and consumers to use only European transfers and European direct debits. As of 2012, consumers will therefore become more aware of SEPA. For instance, it will become possible for consumers to authorise direct debits by foreign companies. Making payments in the Netherlands and to other euro countries will increasingly be done in the same manner. In addition, the current national account numbers will be replaced by European account numbers, referred to as IBAN (International Bank Account Numbers). From then on, it will no longer be possible to use the old numbers, not even for domestic transfers. As many consumers mainly transfer money using traditional domestic transfers, they are not familiar yet with IBAN. Just over 44% of the Dutch know where to find their own IBAN. Tracking down someone else's IBAN is considered even more difficult; only 30% of consumers know how to get hold of it. Consumers usually find their own IBAN on their online banking site or direct debit cards. If they want to find out the counterparty’s IBAN, they generally look at invoices. A third of consumers would like the bank to add the IBAN automatically when they fill in the digital form in their online banking environment.
Communication about IBAN is essential to the success of SEPA migration
Many of the sources for finding out IBAN are already available, but the general public is insufficiently aware of them. The survey results emphasize the importance of good information supply to consumers. In this light, DNB has decided to launch a communications campaign for consumers and companies, starting in the first half of 2012. There is also a clear need for additional services. Both banks and companies may deliver an important contribution. By printing the IBAN on the debit card, updating contact lists automatically with the IBAN numbers and stating the new account numbers on invoices, they will also be helping consumers with a smooth transition to the European manner of making payments.
For more information about how Dutch consumers in 2010 transferred money and paid abroad, what they think of the various payment instruments and their views on SEPA, please read the DNB survey.