Awards - EUropean PAYment circuit (EU-Pay)

Published on: 29/04/2009

EUPAY is designed to bring the benefits of quick and easy-to-use electronic payment mechanisms to all citizens. EUPAY makes paying bills to Public Authorities throughout Europe easier and more convenient than ever before, by providing a multi-channel payment collection system that accepts cash or credit which can be easily deployed at a wide variety of everyday locations including supermarkets, leisure centres and libraries. Citizens benefit from the ability to pay bills at the location of their choice – regardless of whether they have a credit-card or bank account. Public Authorities benefit from a simple, easy-to-use ePayment application that integrates multiple channels seamlessly and cost-effectively.

Policy Context

Electronic payments are increasing steadily throughout Europe, as more and more people are becoming comfortable with technology. Younger generations, in particular, prefer the convenience of electronic over hard currency. Nevertheless, with the exception of the two major international financial systems -the SWIFT and VISA networks, - national electronic payment systems are still highly fragmented, particularly at the local level.

From a financial perspective, Europe is rapidly becoming one single geographical area with unified fees and standards and an entirely open competitive environment. In this context, the continued fragmentation of electronic payment systems across the continent is out of step with recent financial trends and represents a barrier to further economic integration. The full introduction of pan-European SEPA standards in 2008,however, presents a strong opportunity to rectify this barrier through the introduction of a new electronic payment mechanism that specifically aims to unify disparate local systems.

As an EU-funded eTen Project, EUPay is directly designed to meet this need. eTEN is a European Community programme providing funds to help make e-services available throughout the European Union. The eTEN programme helps to stimulate the deployment of innovative, trans-European e-services of social or economic interest. These services are intended to contribute to: growth within the European Union employment, social cohesion and helping everyone participate in the new knowledge-based economy.

Toward this end, EUPAY meets the key objectives of the eTEN programme by: stimulating economic activity at the local level, giving small and medium sized enterprises a new service to provide to customers, bridging the digital divide and empowering everyone to benefit from new mobile and internet payment options.

Description of target users and groups

The direct users of EUPAY are both public and private entities who use the system to collect payments due to them. The service is especially targeted at local luthorities who currently require citizens to go to public offices to pay taxes, school fees, parking permits, fines. The system can also be used by organisations such as public utilities. The end-users of the service are citizens and enterprises. EU Pay is especially targeted at citizens who do not have bank accounts with direct debits facilities, who do not use credit cards and who have no access to the Internet.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Following the successful integration and market validation of a wide variety of payment mechanisms, a new European-wide company will be established to manage and market the service infrastructure. Payment channels in different countries will be managed locally, whilst the core infrastructure will be managed centrally.

The EU-Pay consortium consists of 6 partners and 2 sub-members in 6 European countries. The Consortium is using a mature implementation approach based on a modification of the PRINCE2 methodology, a process-based method for effective project management that is a de facto standard used by the UK Government and internationally. PRINCE2 benefits managers of a project through the controllable use of resources and the ability to manage business and project risk more effectively. PRINCE2 encourages formal recognition of responsibilities within a project and focuses on what a project is to deliver, why, when and for whom. PRINCE2 provides projects with:

  • A controlled and organised start, middle and end.
  • Regular reviews of progress against plan and against the Business Case.
  • Automatic management control of any deviations from the plan.
  • Involvement of management and stakeholders at the right time/place.
  • Good communication channels between the project, project management, and the rest of the organisation.

Technology solution

EUPAY runs over an Internet-based central IT infrastructure manages all payment elements including identification of the service user (i.e. citizen) and payment beneficiary (i.e. Public Authority) and the recording and receipt of payments.

The EUPAY system maintains the details of Public Authority payments in a central database that will be accessible to any channel supported by the system – regardless of location. Each Public Authority payment will have a unique ID code which is reported on all documents (including bills and reminders) and used to facilitate easy identification of the payment via the chosen channel.

Information about the payment made is automatically transferred to the back office of the payment beneficiary (i.e. the Public Authority) on. The software for EUPAY is open source and the delivery mechanism is the Internet. The base technology is a set of dedicated web servers protected by a firewall and secure transfer protocols.

The identity of the service users is verified via strong authentication mechanisms. The technologies used to implement the front ends of each implemented channel depend on the specific channel, but utilises existing technologies in wide usage (e.g. Call centres, GSM, Supermarkets, PC, Kiosk).

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Preliminary results reveal strong satisfaction from direct users such as Local Authorities, public utilities and citizens alike.

Local Authorities in Italy have found the system cost-effective and easy-to-use, whilst public utilities in Germany have used EUPAY to increase efficiency. Meanwhile, citizens without access to traditional online payment mechanisms such as a credit card or bank accounts have appreciated the increased convenience and choice that EUPAY has given them.

The Consortium has disseminated EUPAY widely at conferences, workshops and events throughout Europe, including the recent eChallenges Conference at the Hague, the World eDemocracy forum at Issy-les-Moulineaux, and the closing workshop of the eCitizen project in Vaasa, Finland. A key element of the EUPAY dissemination strategy has been the creation and widespread deployment of interactive videos featuring use of the systems in various European contexts.

The Consortium’s dissemination activities have attracted widespread interest in EUPAY from a variety of actors, including public sector government officials from the EU and Austria and private sector companies from throughout Europe. EUPAY aims to create a sustainable, self-funded business model that other eTEN projects can replicate. As such, EUPAY is currently exploring cooperative initiatives with RISER, an eTen funded project to provide a pan-European address base, as well as with select venture capitalists.

The private sector, in particular, has expressed a strong interest in helping to take EUPAY forward for the following reasons: - The Market. The payment market in Europe is growing and diversifying due to the increasing popularity of electronic systems generally, a new trend toward trans-national payments, and globalisation - The Opportunity. EUPAY represents a unique opportunity to unify a fragmented market through a consolidated, centralised system with low deployment costs. - Innovation. EuPay integrates multiple payment channels ranging from home, mobile and the Internet all the way to cash and credit payments in local shops - The Team.

The EuPay team is a group of partners from 5 diverse European countries with an established track record in deliverying successful Pan-European projects. The team has in-depth knowledge of cross-country collaboration and is working together closely to guarantee the seamless deployment of the EuPAY system throughout Europe - Return-On-Investment. The revenue model is simple and profitable: small fees over large transaction volumes. The model is beneficial to end-users - revenues create a recurrent income and profit stream that accommodates specific ROI strategies.

Return on investment

Return on investment: €1,000,000-5,000,000

Track record of sharing

EUPAY was recently named eTEN project of the month and has been widely featured in best practice forum’s such as the EU portal and numerous EU project workshops throughout Europe. The Consortium regularly provides interactive demonstrations of the system in action that showcase both the citizen and Local Authority experience. Almost universally, peers, public sector organisations and the private sector alike have responded positively to the system’s cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution to a growing need throughout Europe for a unified payment system that addresses the challenge of the Digital Divide.

Following discussions and presentations about EUPAY, the consortium has been approached by media, government officials and private investors to learn more about the social, operational and commercial aspects of the system. Positive feedback from the private sector, in particular, is contributing strongly to the creation of a high impact business case that will be used to take the project forward following its formal completion next March. Meanwhile, discussions with government officials from throughout Europe have helped to define the social need and value of the system, as well as to chart a future strategy for deploying a Pan-European mechanism that accommodates national legislative requirements whilst at the same time answering local needs.

Government officials have validated the Consortium’s decision to deploy a flexible, open source system that compliments rather than replaces existing local software systems. Peers from eTen projects that likewise aim to enhance economic growth, social cohesion and digital inclusion throughout Europe have liased regularly with the EUPAY consortium in order to learn more about the system’s unique emphasis on helping to bridge the digital divide in a sustainable manner that benefits the public and private sector alike. Use of open source software, pre-existing and widely available channels and easy-to-navigate interfaces have proved highly popular with all stakeholders.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Do not reinvent the wheel - To be successful, new software systems and products must be able to accommodate rather than replace pre-existing systems and products - EU projects can learn a great deal from analysing the existing marketplace, adopting best practices and filling social and economic gaps - Interoperability and flexibility are key to creating a Pan-European system that can be deployed throughout Europe in a manner that meets national legislative requirements and local needs.

Lesson 2 - Keep systems simple - End users value a system that is easy to integrate into their back offices, presents a low deployment risk to existing technologies and is cost-effective to maintain - Direct users increasingly demand clear, accessible interfaces that anyone can intuitively navigate - Open source software provides the most cost-effective way to deliver innovation in a user-friendly context.

Lesson 3 - Do not assume that sustainability clashes with social responsibility - The digitally excluded represent a largely under-tapped market for many small and medium sized enterprises - Empowering this sector to benefit from technology to the same extent as the digitally included can generate powerful cost savings for the public sector - The private sector is keen to support projects that can generate profit in a socially responsible manner, particularly if the project fills a market gap and can demonstrate year-on-year returns on investment.

Scope: International