EU finance ministers have agreed new rules to govern cross-border payments services for transactions made anywhere in its 27 member states.
The payments services directive, hammered out by finance ministers from across Europe, will provide the legal framework for the Single Euro Payments Area (Sepa), which will begin to come into operation next year and is set to be fully established by 2010.
The directive will cover transactions by electronic transfer and online payment services as well as payments made through the traditional banking sector. Sepa will make payments made across national borders by credit or debit card or electronic transfer as cheap as transactions within states.
But research commissioned by IT services firm LogicaCMG and published in October found that UK and European banks were struggling to get ready for Sepa.
In a survey of more than 100 high street banks, carried out by Coleman Parkes, more than three quarters admitted they were "just doing the minimum" to meet 2008 requirements, while 63 percent believed lack of coordination across the business would cause problems with Sepa implementations.