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By Arnaud Crouzet, VP Security & Consulting at Fime

What is EPI?

The European Payments Initiative (EPI) is aiming to provide a pan-European payments solution. EPI aims to set itself apart from other payment methods and address the challenges created by the fragmentation of the European payments landscape.

Some of the EU’s biggest banks are already members of EPI, and several more are anticipated to join after the planned introduction in 2022. In a rapidly changing payments ecosystem, this cooperation at a European level is long-awaited. The initiative is set to bring multiple benefits to customers and merchants, but gaining their trust first is crucial to a successful adoption.

What does it mean for merchants and customers and are they ready for it?

Merchants of all sizes are looking for a simplified payment integration, ideally a single solution that connects all of their customers’ payment methods. It is difficult for merchants to integrate each payment market independently, especially those with no experience in this area. Therefore, one unified payment network would vastly benefit European merchants. However, the solution must be instantaneous, as the market is anticipating a truly real-time payment solution. To be prepared for EPI, merchants must fully understand how it is going to operate in the European market and what it means for them.

For customers, banks must ensure that EPI does not disrupt or confuse their payment experience when banking online or shopping. For example, performing pre-authorizations with instant payment could confuse customers if they see a pre-authorized amount on their statement, which is later adjusted to reflect the actual charge. To simplify the payment experience for the customer, this should be managed so they only see the final amount paid. For customers to be ready to adopt EPI, they must be made aware that the solution will simplify and speed up payment experiences, making their lives easier.

What are the security expectations? 

For a payment method to be accepted, it must be secure and provide guarantees for both the consumer and the merchant. That is why they must be aware of the security measures that will be implemented and the payment assurances that will be provided. Instant payments made with EPI will be digital and operate 24/7. Therefore, the security measures must also be in real-time for a successful adoption.

EPI must strike the right balance between security, minimal disruption and credibility. Making merchants and consumers aware that they are totally protected – in the same or better ways than today – is an obligation. It will only be a success if consumers and merchants have trust in the initiative, so education on this topic must become a priority.

Which use cases will the initiative address?

EPI brings many opportunities to payments across Europe including card services, digital wallets, cash withdrawals, online payments and real-time person to person (P2P) payment services.

To meet the demands of merchants and offer a seamless, digital payment service, EPI needs to address all the different use cases that already exist today. If consumers know that they can make payments, access online banking and purchase items online faster and easier, they will be keen to use the scheme.

What is the future of EPI?

EPI has the potential to harmonize payments across Europe, simplify payment experiences for both consumers and merchants alike, and enable the development of new use cases. For the initiative to take off, it must be just as competitive as the current alternatives. While efforts and discussions to get the project off the ground are still underway, a key priority for the initiative once it enters the operational phase in 2022 must be to gain the trust of consumers and merchants.

Find out more about EPI in our blog series.

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