The European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) are encouraging the European Payments Council to move ahead with the launch of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Direct Debit Scheme. Direct debits allow bank customers to pay their bills by authorising companies to withdraw money directly from their bank accounts. Currently there are separate national schemes and it is not possible to establish direct debit arrangements across European borders. Under the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme, bank customers would be able to arrange direct debits to pay companies in any of the 31 European countries (the 27 EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) participating in SEPA. The Commission and ECB recognise the potential advantages of such a scheme in terms of economies of scale and increased competition, allowing consumers and companies to benefit from improved efficiency and innovation. In order to facilitate the implementation of the scheme, interchange fees may be imposed for a limited transitional phase, with the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme taking effect in November 2009.