Frequently Asked SEPA Questions

27 / 12 / 2013

With only several weeks to go before the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) switchover deadline, most of the companies and institutions in the participating countries are aware that there is no turning back.

Man making a phone call

However, this does not mean that all preparations have been fully completed and that all involved parties are ready yet.

Despite freely available SEPA information on corporate or (national) banking websites, there is still a large target audience that struggles with the transition and has several SEPA questions. To help find answers to these SEPA questions, the European Central Bank (ECB) created an overview of the most frequently SEPA questions and answers. 

The questions are divided in four categories: general questions, International Bank Account Numbers (IBANs) IBANs and Business Identified Codes (BICs), SEPA direct debit and SEPA credit transfers. Here is an overview of the different categories including a few question and answer examples:

General questions

This category contains questions about what SEPA means, what it stands for and who it concerns. The questions are addressed to consumers as well as businesses. Here is an example:

What does the SEPA reachability requirement mean?

Reachability refers to the obligation of payment service providers to ensure that any payment account that can be used for sending or receiving credit transfers and/or direct debits in Euros at the national level can also be used for sending or receiving equivalent SEPA credit transfers and/or SEPA direct debits in Euros.

IBANs and BICs

This category explains everything around IBAN and BIC. The principles of IBAN and BIC are being clarified and users can find out more about their own IBAN. An example of a question in this category is about a common mistake:

What happens if I misspell or mistype an IBAN?

Every IBAN includes a unique check digit that protects users from making such mistakes.

SEPA direct debit

SEPA direct debit (SDD) is explained in this section of the overview. Here, readers will find answers to more technical questions like the requested SDD language, creditor identifiers and the time cycle of SEPA direct debit collection. One of the highlighted questions in this category is:

If a creditor has debtors in several different countries, will it be possible to send all SEPA direct debits in the same message file?

Yes, SEPA direct debits (or SEPA credit transfers, respectively) can be sent together in a single file using the ISO 20022 XML format, regardless of the locations of the euro payment accounts to be debited.

SEPA credit transfers

SEPA credit transfers (SCT) are explained by giving answers to five common questions, including this one:

What data do I need to provide to my payment service provider to initiate a SEPA credit transfer?

In order to initiate a SEPA credit transfer, the payer is required to provide his/her payment service provider with:

  • His/her name and/or the IBAN of his/her payment account
  • The amount of the credit transfer
  • The IBAN of the payee’s payment account
  • Where available, the payee’s name
  • Any remittance information (allowing for 140 characters)

Furthermore the ECB provides a list of local websites (including Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain) where FAQs on SEPA migration in individual national languages can be found.

This FAQ is a good initiative and helps consumers as well as businesses to find an answer to their most urgent SEPA questions.

Marcel Woutersen

Marcel Woutersen

Marcel has been working at this company since 1990. As Head of Head of Communication Financial Services and spokesperson, he is responsible for Internal and external communication within this Global Business line at Worldline.