Following half a year of the extension period, eurozone member states are now moving slowly towards a switchover to the brand-new Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA). From last Friday (1 August), the “IBAN” and “BIC” codes will become a stable part of bank transfers and direct debits in the common currency area. This change aims to harmonize payment methods in the EU member states and tackle delays in cross-border banks transfers from the current average of five days to a mere one day. Since the EU member countries did not manage to finalize the new SEPA for the first time, they were given an extension period of six months. The original deadline for the switch to the new system was on 1st February but some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as individuals had difficulties in migrating to the new SEPA. Now, transfers of those firms that failed to adopt the new system by 1st August will be declined, which can cause problems with paying wages or suppliers.
Based on the data of the European Central Bank (ECB), Italy’s usage rate of SEPA credit transfer transactions went up from 61.5 percent to 96.3 percent while Germany’s rate rose from 58.5 percent to 92.7 percent. Except for Greece and Austria, all countries have scored more than 90 percent, while Belgium and Spain switched to the new system completely. Countries which are not members of the eurozone have the option to adopt the SEPA system voluntarily. For instance, Denmark managed to achieve a usage rate of 100 percent since mid-2012. The least successful country was Hungary, which attained only 54.91 percent in the first half of 2013.