SEPA in Spain

Spanish Law Wed, 5 Feb 2014
SEPA in Spain

You may have already received a communication about SEPA in Spain. SEPA stands for the Single Euro Payments Area. It is an initiative introduced by the EU governments, the European Commission and the European Central Bank to create an integrated payments market across Europe. It is expected to make financial transaction more straight forward and make sure that transactions between countries are as smooth as within a country.  

The advantages that have been broadcast include:

  • You can use your debit card anywhere in the euro area
  • Better cross-border bank transfers – payments should be made promptly and in full
  • Direct debits from anywhere in the euro area – you will be able to pay bills from your home country to another country by direct debit
  • You will only need one bank account for the whole euro area

What will this mean?

In practice, what this means is if you are setting up direct debit or transfer arrangements between banks  then the IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Business Identifier Code) will have to be included. For example, if a company such as Ábaco needs to arrange a direct debit they will now need your IBAN number and the BIC for your account.    

You can find your IBAN and BIC usually on your Spanish bank account statement.

The official start date for the new arrangements was the 1st February 2014. However, this data was only required in the case of new direct debits and existing arrangements would not be affected. If your direct debits are already established then you should not have anything to do.

Some people may find that their bank account number will have to be extended slightly or altered to ensure compatibility. However, these changes should be carried out for you by your bank.

Overall, the new arrangements should just make matters easier for those with a personal bank account. Company accounts, however, might be more complicated and businesses might need to make changes to their own payment systems where necessary.  

When should this happen?

What you may not realise is that, in fact, this has been coming for almost two years, the regulation having first been introduced in March 2012. SEPA migration has been slower than anticipated.  

Statistics showed that many people have not yet complied with the requirement. Because of this, there has been a slight relaxation on the timing of its introduction.

Although the official date of its implementation is still 1st February 2014, banks are being allowed to process non-compliant transfers for another six months. Now it will begin on 1st August 2014, allowing a little more time to get everything in order.


if the official date of SEPA compliance was February 2014, why is it that some Spanish banks are still processing the payments as SWIFT and charging customers extra fees as a result even though the transaction is initiated as a SEPA financial transaction providing all mandatory information including IBAN and BIC code when placing the order?
What amazes me is the fact that in reality there is no financial ombudsman to control the banks in Spain and it takes the European courts intervention to stop the Spanish banks from continuously and openly fleecing unsuspecting customers. Once customers become aware, they find that the banks will either not provide some or all of the information requested and the cost / competence of Spanish lawyers makes the whole justice process futile. So much for being a part of civilised Europe. Once bitten twice shy is the phrase that comes to mind.

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