The European Payments Initiative (EPI), previously known as the Pan-European Payments System Initiative (PEPSI), is a European Central Bank-backed payment-integration initiative aiming to create a pan European payment system and interbank network to rival Mastercard and Visa, and eventually replace national European payment schemes such as France’s Carte Bancaire and Germany’s Girocard.
It is supported by the European Commission, and currently comprises twenty major European banks (including all the major French banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank in Germany, Santander Bank in Spain and Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit in Italy).
The idea of introducing a pan-European card scheme within the Single Euro Payments Area was born around 2008. In 2010, major European banks from more than ten countries met at the “Madrid Symposium” to discuss the initiative and make plans to take it forward. By 2011, the Monnet Project had developed detailed technical and business plans for the merger of national payment schemes. By then, it included 24 banks drawn from seven countries. However, the proponents of the new system did not believe they could develop a viable business model that did not include commercially viable interchange fees for the participating banks, a concern they raised with the European Commission. The Commission was unwilling to allow any movement that could erode free competition, and therefore refused to entertain any system, even a new entrant, with interchange fees that exceeded the low level that the Commission was seeking.
Commercial interests prevailing over a pan-European solution, and in the absence of a clear source of income for the issuing banks, progress on the project was put to a halt. It was dissolved in April 2012 due to “the perceived absence of a viable business model”, according to the European Central Bank.
Visa Europe, the only payment system that broadly met the definition of a European card scheme, was acquired by Visa Inc. in June 2016.
In July 2020, a group of 16 major European banks from five countries (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain) announced their support and development programs for the European Payments Initiative (EPI). These banks include: BBVA, BNP Paribas, Groupe BPCE, CaixaBank, Commerzbank, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Mutuel, Deutsche Bank, Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband, DZ Bank, ING, KBC Group, La Banque Postale, Banco Santander, Société Générale and UniCredit.
As it is based on the SEPA instant credit transfer (SCT Inst) scheme, EPI’s payment network can immediately capitalise on powerful and sophisticated existing infrastructures, such as the Eurosystem’s TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS).
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- ^“Card payments in Europe – current landscape and future prospects: a Eurosystem perspective”. European Central Bank. 17 April 2019. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
- ^“Major Eurozone banks start the implementation phase of the European Payments Initiative”. thepaypers.com.
- ^Bank, European Central (2 July 2020). “ECB welcomes initiative to launch new European payment solution” – via www.ecb.europa.eu.