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The plans for the European Payments Initiative are ambitious, so a few obstacles are to be expected.
It was always going to be a challenge to create a new card scheme which would operate multi-laterally across European markets, dictated by a scheme of rules in the centre, but operated by multiple interdependent domestic operators.
Further, the need to update merchant infrastructure across the entire bloc would require a costly and lengthy set up for the industry. And would have been based on the mantra “old is best, we just need to Europeanise it” built upon decades old concepts (plastic cards at point of sale) without visibly improving the experience for merchants or consumers in any notable way. While EPI did have plans for a digital wallet and real-time payments, its heavy bias towards cards was unrealistic given today’s evolution to real-time and digital payments.
Other markets such as India and Brazil have seen massive success by leaving Cards alone, and instead implementing real-time and digital payments experiences. This has driven immense growth in those markets as consumers and businesses alike have moved to use a vastly simplified, cheaper, and enhanced customer experience using easy to use, distribute and maintain digital wallets that rides the instant payment rails.
Of course, EPI’s plans are not ruined. By refocusing on where the bang will be worth the buck – digital and real-time payments enabled through wallets – execution and subsequent adoption will be stronger.
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