SEPA and e-Invoicing: ECB progress report 2008

November 27, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

In the sixth progress report on the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), published this week, the Governing Council of the ECB welcomed the evident progress made on this project, but emphasised that work urgently remains to be done to ensure the success of SEPA. The sixth progress report also contains a list of “Ten milestones for SEPA implementation and migration”.

Read the sixth SEPA progress report of the European Central Bank below:

There have been many new developments since the publication of the fifth progress report in July 2007. The successful launch of SEPA in January 2008 was a major achievement. With the introduction of the SEPA Credit Transfer (SCT) on 28 January 2008, the first benefits of SEPA have materialised for banks and, more importantly, for the end-users of payment services. National SEPA implementation and migration plans have been drafted and published. Most automated clearing houses that were processing credit transfers in euro are now able to process SCTs. In January 2008, SEPA was also started for card payments, but more effort is needed in this area if the goals of the SEPA project are to be achieved, for example the emergence of at least one additional European card scheme.

Preparations for the third type of payment instrument, SEPA Direct Debit (SDD), have continued over the past year, resulting in the adoption of the Rulebooks. The launch of the SDD is scheduled for 1 November 2009. Nevertheless, the launch of this important SEPA instrument needs to be accompanied by clarification between the banking sector and the relevant competition authorities with regard to the possible interbank pricing models. This issue needs to be resolved urgently. Finally, considerable progress has been made in the fields of e-payments and mobile payments.

The areas which require most attention now are: a) the timely launch of the SEPA Direct Debit on 1 November 2009; b) the emergence of an additional European card scheme; and c) measures to stimulate migration to SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit, including the setting of a realistic, but ambitious end-date for national credit transfers and direct debits.

The key messages of this report, which should be followed up by the market to ensure the success of SEPA, are as follows:

1. Banks need to ensure more communication, clear product offerings and the delivery of a consistent customer experience in order to stimulate the uptake of SEPA Credit Transfer by all customers, with public administrations, in particular, becoming early adopters.

2. The remaining obstacles to a timely launch of SEPA Direct Debit should be overcome. To move forward, solutions must be found urgently, e.g. by providing clarity on the launch date, ensuring the continued validity of existing mandates, meeting customer requirements, increasing communication efforts and closing the debate on the multilateral interchange fee.

3. SEPA needs to enable end-to-end straight-through-processing (whereby payments are processed smoothly  nd without manual intervention) and to move beyond core and basic products by embracing innovative products and services, such as m-payments, e-payments, e-invoicing, etc.

4. The setting of a realistic, but ambitious end-date for the migration to SCT and SDD is a necessary step in order to reap the benefits of SEPA early.

5. A more ambitious approach needs to be taken towards the SEPA for Cards and supporting market initiatives to create a European card scheme.

6. The European payment industry should ensure that it has adequate influence over the SEPA cards standards, which should preferably be non-proprietary standards – The EPC is to advance the SEPA cards standardisation programme.

7. Security is the basis for trust in SEPA payments, and all stakeholders need to continue and even intensify their efforts.

8. Infrastructures are leading by example, but the remaining restrictions on interoperability should be removed.

9. Good governance of the SEPA project requires changes to the EPC’s mandate and organisation. One short-term step would be to strengthen the EPC’s Secretariat so that it can adequately support the EPC in its many tasks. In the medium to longer term, more substantial changes are needed to improve the EPC’s effectiveness, transparency and accountability.

10. Clarity and certainty with regard to the SEPA tasks: the SEPA implementation and migration milestones provide a list of concrete tasks that the Eurosystem expects to be fulfilled to ensure the success of the SEPA project.

The addressees of the report are not only the banks and future payment institutions, but all relevant stakeholders, such as corporates, public administrations, merchants and consumers.

The report is available in other official Community languages in due course.

Source: European Central Bank

Intelligent PDF: removing barriers?

Last week, Adobe presented its intelligent PDF eInvoicing solution in a white paper. Adobe proposes an end-to-end approach in which the e-invoice is interpretable by both humans and computer systems. The Adobe approach is based on the eInvoicing processes as described by the CEN/ISSS Workshop on Compliance of e-Invoices and is expected to be compliant with EU and respective national VAT regulations.

The importance of the CEN/ISSS Workshop deliverables
The Adobe whitepaper shows once again the importance of the deliverables of the CEN/ISSS Workshop deliverables. At this point the Workshop is in its second phase, having delivered at least one groundbreaking deliverable: the Draft Good Practice Guidelines. These guidelines are available here, here and soon on 
Some groups with other interests on e-invoicing do not quite agree with these Guidelines. But we arguably can not ignore the fact that this is a serious attempt to remove one of the major barriers on e-invoicing: uncertainty on e-invoicing.

Intelligent PDF: removing barriers?
The intelligent PDF approach presented by Adobe could also serve as a mean to remove a barrier to e-invoicing: adoption in a B2B environment.

E-invoicing is acknowledged to be an unstoppable innovation across and outside Europe. Taking a leap in the future, full scale e-invoicing would mean that the vast majority of organisation is not only sending e-invoices, but also –and this very important– receiving e-invoicing.

One of the results from a major survey conducted by e-business watch showed that most of the companies prefer to receive e-invoices per e-mail in PDF. This is not the answer that some of the BSP would like to hear. But it clearly shows that receivers are in need of control over the inbound e-invoice.

The intelligent PDF approach of Adobe does just that. It combines the humanly interpretable PDF with a for computer systems readable XML format. So now we can receive and read the PDF invoice and having established the perception of control over the e-invoice, we can now extract and import the XML data into our financial software.

This enables e-invoicing between business partners regardless of size, sector, business processes and accounting software. If in fact the intelligent PDF approach guarantees compliance with the respective national VAT legislation, it would also be usable in cross border e-invoicing.

Intelligence in authenticity and integrity?
Interestingly enough, the Adobe intelligent PDF whitepaper mentions the possibility to sign the PDF document. So the PDF document is the format that is being used for formal validation. The invoice’s XML data can be submitted for material validation against external documentation such as supplier contracts. E-invoices archived in PDF/A guarantee the fidelity of the invoice, while the use of XML ensures that invoice data can be transformed to any format required by auditing software.

Maybe it is also interesting to use the XML data for formal validation. This would implicate that not only the PDF document is signed, but also the XML file, for instance with XADES or XMLDSIG. Then, the XML feed can also be used for formal validation even when archived. Additionally it would be very interesting for SME’s to use the PDF document for material validation.

So, the Adobe intelligent PDF is more intelligent compared to the plain old PDF docyument. We can expect it to have an impact on removing the barrier of awareness, including the aspect of adoption by have the perception of being in control. And maybe the approach can be made even more intelligent by incorporating XML signing. This would be very interesting because then it would not matter which document is being used for formal validation: PDF or XML, or both. Creating ease of use (which will be explained in the next Featured Article).

Read the Adobe white paper here:

European Commission: webpage on e-invoicing

November 25, 2008  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing  |  Comments Off

At the start of 2008, the European Commission has set up an Expert Group on the subject of electronic invoicing. The thirty members of the Expert Group should represent all key stakeholders concerning e-Invoicing. The members shall be appointed by the Commission from specialists with competence in the area of e-Invoicing on the basis of applications from industry associations, public sector bodies and individuals representing the interests of all or part of public sector, enterprises and ICT, consumers, financial service providers and standardisation organisations in the field of e-Invoicing.
It is expected that an interim report will be published early 2009, describing the proceedings on the work of the expert group up to now and presenting the aims to achieve in 2009 in areas of legal barriers, business requirements and network and standards. 
More information on the subject e-invoicing and related such as the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and the intentions and ambitions on the European scale, please visit the website of the European Commission concerning e-invoicing.

First release of OASIS UBL 2.0 IDD begins public review

November 25, 2008  |  Adoption  |  Comments Off

The first set of UBL 2.0 data dictionary translations is now out for public review. The first set of UBL 2.0 data dictionary can be downloaded from
Created by OASIS UBL localization subcommittees (LSCs) to aid in global UBL deployment, this package provides translations of the 1900+ standard UBL business term definitions into Japanese, Italian, and Spanish.
The International Data Dictionary (IDD) provides speakers of those languages with a key to the meanings of the standardized XML tags used in UBL 2.0 business documents. The translations are provided as ODF and Excel files using the same spreadsheet format as the data models in the OASIS UBL 2.0 Standard, as recently updated:
Subsequent releases of the IDD will include corrections based on input from the international user community and translations into other languages as they become available. Persons wishing to start a UBL localization subcommittee should contact the IDD editor and chair of the UBL TC, Jon Bosak ([email protected]).

Further information:
OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) TC
Index of /ubl/os-UBL-2.0-update/mod/


Spanish Plan Avanza supports new technologies in SMEs

November 25, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

The Plan Avanza has mobilised € 1800 million in 2006-2008 to facilitate the introduction of new technologies in Spanish SMEs. David Cierco, Director General for Development of the Information Society within the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade unveiled this information on the occasion of the presentation of the Prointur project (Profesionalización del Turismo de Interior), a project funded under the Plan Avanza.
The programme ‘Avanza SMEs’ of Plan Avanza endeavours to increase the ICT level of adoption by SMEs through the introduction of sectoral solutions and eBusiness, including the introduction of eInvoicing. The implementation of these measures has been done through calls for aid, agreements with regional governments and ICT loans.

Avanza SME has several lines of action:

- outreach programmes to expand the use of the Internet and new technologies;
- provision of technological advice;
- training and awareness-raising on the efficient use of ICT;
- implementation of projects and actions to develop and adopt business solutions;
- preparation of studies and analysis;
- programmes for content creation;
- provision of computer equipment.

Mr. Cierco reminded the audience that the new plan Avanza2, “the normal evolution of the Plan Avanza,” pursues qualitative and specific objectives, through five areas of action: infrastructure, security and trust, technological training, digital content and services and industrial development.

Prointur is a project of the foundation Fundetec whose aim is to promote the use of Information Technologies and Communication Technologies (ICT) within the internal and rural tourism accommodation sector, as an instrument to professionalize the business management while increasing the activity. The initiative is funded jointly by Fundetec, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade - through the Plan Avanza - and the European Union.


Further information: Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade

CEN / Adobe: Intelligent PDF and XML for legally valid electronic invoicing

November 21, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off
The following publication explains a way of using Intelligent PDF to support compliante Invoicing solutions. Adobe has worked together with CEN to create a white paper in which a relatively new type PDF solution is worked out.
The PDF is an intelligent message. The PDF document offers not only an optical readable invoice, but also billing data extracted in XML. Besides this, even charging can be audited.

Read the entire article here:


ePractice: European Electronic Invoicing Platform introduced

November 13, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

Following its eInvoicing initiative ‘Platform ELFA’ in the Netherlands, Dutch-based Factuurwijzer has recently set off activities in the European eInvoicing field. The aim is to raise awareness of eInvoicing while improving its implementation through the European Electronic Invoicing (EEI) Platform.
The growth of eInvoicing allows everyone to benefit from the great advantages of electronic invoicing compared to paper invoicing. The EEI Platform aims to support the implementation of eInvoicing through online participation and cooperation between individual companies, trade organisations and the public sector.

In addition, participants will benefit from the results achieved by a wide range of activities, namely, publicity, implementation, standardisation, accreditation and promotion.

Currently, a lot of effort is devoted to composing a strong international group of Founding Partners which will form the roots of this initiative. Meanwhile, over ten organisations have signed up as Founding Partners, or participants with the EEI Platform.

EEI Platform is a variant of the Dutch Electronic Invoicing Platform (ELFA), a grouping of organisations directly or indirectly linked to electronic invoicing: software providers, industry associations, government institutions and users.

In the Netherlands, Platform ELFA plays an important part in the implementation process of eBilling while providing substantial information, news and background documentation through its interactive website. In addition, it is possible for audiences to communicate with each other on eInvoicing and related topics via several social tools.

Participation in the EEI Platform is not only suitable for specialists such as billing service providers. It is also possible for users, banks, public institutions, educational institutions and industry associations to join and benefit from this initiative. Furthermore, organisations whose activities are neighbouring the main sectors, such as credit-management organisations and financial institutions, are also invited to participate.


EU: Prototype IDABC eInvoicing and eOrdering project ready

November 10, 2008  |  Adoption  |  Comments Off

The European Commission IDABC eInvoicing and eOrdering project team has recently reached an important milestone: the delivery of the prototype. It allows the sending of an XML invoice to the Commission’s e-PRIOR system and the automatic integration in the back-office system after a number of validations. The major next step is a real-life pilot with a number of IT suppliers.
The e-PRIOR (electronic PRocurement, Invoicing and ORdering) prototype has been developed inside the Commission’s infrastructure and is hosted in its datacentre.

The prototype currently supports:
- the sending of an XML invoice through secured web services;
- the sending of a separate attachment;
- the sending of a status request message, which returns the status of the invoice.

User access, logging and a business document viewer have also been implemented.
The prototype was demonstrated to the IDABC programme’s Technical Working Group and formally endorsed by the ‘Pan-European eGovernment Services Committee’ (PEGSCO) which is the IDABC programme’s management committee.
The next project phase includes:
- Running a real-life pilot with a number of existing IT and telecom suppliers;
- Organising a post-pilot workshop to share the lessons learnt of the pilot;
- Developing additional use cases, including disputes and credit notes;
- Analysing the eOrdering process.

This phase should be completed before the summer holiday of 2009. During the final phase, the pilot will be extended with the additional use cases whilst the eOrdering process is being developed.

Final step
As a final step, all project deliverables will be packaged for dissemination. Collaboration with other eInvoicing and standardization initiatives is seen as very important, and contributions have been made to:

- The Expert Group on eInvoicing
- The PEPPOL project
- The CEN/BII workshop, where the IDABC eInvoicing and eOrdering project team is now even chairing the subgroup working on the usage of code tables.

A major contribution has been made towards the redefinition of the profiles, making them modular and complementary, resulting in decoupling the profiles from any message standard like UBL or UN/CEFACT.
Where applicable or possible, concepts and tools have been re-used from Member States, such as the NES/UBL XML formats and profiles, stylesheets and validator tools. Member States will equally be able to re-use deliverables and results from this project, such as XML definitions, stylesheets, approaches or concepts, programming code and architecture documents.

Further information:
e-PRIOR case in ePractice IDABC website
eProcurement news & good practice
e-PRIOR demo on You Tube


e-Invoicing adoption continues to skyrocket

November 8, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

Prediction by GXS Senior Marketing Manager, Rochelle Cohen   

2008 will see a veritable explosion in the adoption of e-invoicing to help businesses automate their accounting processes. Businesses are increasingly applying technology to automate their procure-to-pay process and gain the dramatic business benefits that have been documented in numerous case studies and benchmarks. When e-invoicing is integrated with automated workflow and e-payments—which over 90 percent of large enterprises are doing or planning to implement—it enables companies to not only reap significant hard dollar cost savings from reduced operational costs associated with handling paper, but also to take advantage of discounts that can add millions of dollars to the company’s bottom line.
Furthermore, more companies are taking advantage of the opportunity brought about by this “perfect storm” of automation to gain even greater savings by leveraging prorated discount structures or discounts negotiated once invoices are ready to be paid. 
Further fueling the adoption of e-invoicing are electronic invoicing legislation, such as the EU Council Directive 2001/115/EC which allows the electronic invoice to serve as the legal invoice in the European Union, and the availability of third party service providers that now offer a broad range of translation, protocol mediation and regulatory compliance services. These services enable companies to overcome the barriers that have prevented 100 percent trading partner participation in the past.
For example, now even small trading partners can participate in e-invoicing programs without changing their current processes. And, suppliers are beginning to welcome the opportunity because they recognize the benefits they too will receive; this is particularly true when buyers promise faster payments in return for electronic invoicing. Furthermore, buyers who do business with international suppliers can rely on the third party service provider to ensure that varying local government regulations are satisfied. 2008 will be a breakthrough year for e-invoicing. The business case is clear, technology options providing seamless integration with in-house are readily available and the e-invoicing adoption rate has been growing steeply and steadily.

Read the full article here

Survey shows that German users are not yet familiar with e-invoices

October 31, 2008  |  Adoption, Publications  |  Comments Off

An Itella survey among German visitors of this year’s DMS (Digital Management Solutions Expo) proves that there is still much confusion on the subject of electronic invoices.
About 90% of the surveyed visitors in Cologne believed that violations of the German Signature Act have serious consequences such as fines, warnings or non-recognition of the invoice. On the other hand, only 19% knew that without Qualified Electronic Signature (QES), the tax is not claimed or a tax audit can be reclaimed. Moreover, nearly half of all respondents feels extremely badly informed regarding electronic invoices.
The aim of this survey was to gain background information about the low distribution of electronic invoices and QES in Germany which was the result of an earlier study by Itella. An electronic invoice -combined with QES for over 96% of DMS respondents- offers the ideal mix of safety, reliability and practicality. However, according to the original study only 30% of the companies use electronic forwarding methods. 50% of the surveyed visitors consider lack of confidence in safety and the lack of acceptance by the business as the main reasons for the low adoption level.
“Concerns about security are largely unjustified,” says Raimund Schlotmann, CEO of Itella Germany. “When it comes to security, the qualified electronic signature - especially for complete implementation by a service provider – is a fast, simple and reliable solution. We therefore even recommend to apply the QES in building consumer confidence. Neither senders nor receivers bear additional expenses if a service provider is on board. In comparison to the paper bill, the security even increases.”
Also, the potential savings in the editing workflow are not clear to most DMS visitors. Two-third of the respondents thought that an automated data input and output would save 10 to 50% in document processing. “These estimates are very conservative because the savings are often much higher: up to 90% is possible,” says Raimund Schlotmann. “Companies do not know how much time and money they spend unnecessarily.”