Here are the answers to some frequent questions relating to SEPA.
What countries are taking part in SEPA?
The 28 EU member states, the three EEA countries of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, and Switzerland and Monaco.
Important: SEPA can only be used for payments in Euro.
Can I continue to use existing payment methods? You can continue to use existing payment methods for the time being. The SEPA method is offered as a supplementary service. In the medium term, the current domestic transfers and direct debits will be replaced by SEPA Credit Transfers and SEPA Direct Debits.
How many characters does SEPA allow in the reference field? All SEPA payment orders allow a maximum of 140 characters in the reference field.
How can I recognise from my statement whether a transaction is a SEPA payment? SEPA payments mostly contain the word "SEPA” in the entry description. The client/recipient data (incoming/outgoing payments) is disclosed via BIC and IBAN. All entry information is characterised by an identifier at the start of the line, e.g. SVWZ+ (SEPA reason for payment), KREF+ (presenter reference), EREF+ (customer reference), CRED+ (creditor identifier), MREF+ (mandate reference), ABWA+ and ABWE+ (differing client/recipient).
Will there be any changes to MT940 statements as a result of SEPA? The introduction of SEPA has resulted in changes to MT940 statements. These changes primarily relate to the transaction code and the structured reason for payment. The specifications can be downloaded at http://www.ebics.org/index.php?id=30.
Do I need to make any changes to my payment software? You can continue to use all current software solutions (e. g. SFirm). The new SEPA method is supplementary. Software providers have been informed about the SEPA specifications and provide the current SEPA method.
Do the changes resulting from SEPA also affect the business portal? All existing functions and layouts remain in place. Since 28 January 2008, you have also had the option of transmitting SEPA Credit Transfer data in the business portal, and you will be able to transmit SEPA Direct Debit data since 2 November 2009.
Does SEPA entail any changes in reporting requirements? As the SEPA format does not contain fields for AWV notifications, the corresponding notification for SEPA Credit Transfers in excess over €12,500 must be submitted to Deutsche Bundesbank.
When will you support SEPA Direct Debits? We have offered SEPA Core and B2B Direct Debits since 2 November 2009.
What is the SEPA creditor identifier and how can I obtain one? The SEPA creditor identifier (CI) is a single number valid across Europe that unequivocally identifies the submitter of a SEPA Direct Debit. Parties submitting SEPA Direct Debits require this 18-character alphanumeric string, as any orders submitted will not be processed without it.
The SEPA creditor identifier in conjunction with the mandate reference number allows a mandate to be identified unequivocally. This means that, when a SEPA Direct Debit is presented, the debtor can examine the mandate or the paying agent can offer the debtor a corresponding service as applicable.
You can apply for a creditor identifier from Deutsche Bundesbank: www.Bundesbank.de
Do existing direct debit mandates need to be replaced? Due to the changes in direct debit conditions on July 9, 2012, existing direct debit mandates can also be used for collecting SEPA Core Direct Debits and do not need to be replaced with SEPA mandates. However, if the direct debit mandate is changed to a SEPA Core Direct Debit, the payer must be informed ahead of time and given the creditor identifier and the mandate reference.
To use SEPA B2B Direct Debit, a new mandate must be received from the existing payer. It is not possible to reinterpret the existing debit order.
Sample forms for the various SEPA Core Direct Debit and B2B Direct Debit mandates are available at http://www.die-deutsche-kreditwirtschaft.de/dk/zahlungsverkehr/sepa/inhalte-der-sepa/lastschrift.html
Can I also use the SEPA basic direct debit (COR1) shorter submission time limit for cross-border direct debits? No, the shorter submission time limit only applies to debit transfers of SEPA basic direct debits within Germany (uniform time limit for the submission of initial and subsequent direct debits D-1). Cross-border direct debits must still be submitted in time, to ensure that the standard template time limit is kept.
How do I inform my SEPA recipient of the purpose the transaction (e.g. salary payment)? For domestic payments, the banking industry has established uniform text keys for indicating the payment type. Thus for individual types of credit memos, such as salary or pension credits, capital accumulation benefits and donations, special text keys must absolutely be used. However, in SEPA payments other keys apply:
SEPA purpose codes (payment type)
List of abbreviations