Electronic Invoicing in Sweden
Business to consumer (B2C)
Since 2002 there has been a common Swedish inter-bank cooperation regarding e-invoicing directed to private customers. The Swedish banks have agreed upon a common inter-bank e-invoice format and a common rulebook which consists of booth business rules and technical rules. The invoice sender has the possibility to contact a bank or a technical partner to the bank that will make the necessary technical adjustments in order to send e-invoices. These technical partners are certified by the banks. The basis of the cooperation is an inter-bank exchange of electronic payment initiator (EPI) related information and html links to the actual invoice. The invoice is stored at an electronic storage facility which can be provided by the sender’s bank, the invoice sender himself or a third party provider.
From a customers point of view the private customer logs on to the Internet-bank and receives a notification which informs the customer that a new e-invoice is available. The customer then has the possibility to read the EPI information and directly generate a payment of the invoice. The customer also has the possibility to view the invoice by clicking a link. The invoice is stored in the Internet bank for up to 18 months.
All the Swedish banks have implemented a simplified sign up process for private customers which presents an offer to sign up for receiving e-invoices when making a Internet-bank payment to an account belonging to a payment receiver that supports e-invoicing. This has been a major success and has increased the volumes of invoices.
Today the Swedish banks dominate the market for presentation of electronic information towards private customers. In 2009 35 million B2C invoices were presented in the Internet-banks, which represent 11% of the total number of B2C Internet-bank payments.
The Swedish Bankers’ Association is responsible for the coordination of the Swedish B2C Interbank e-invoice cooperation.
Business to business (B2B)
The market for B2B e-invoices is immature and fragmented regarding actors, customer needs, formats and technical solutions. One reason is that the Internet-bank as a channel for e-invoices is not as important for corporate customers compared to private customers. Therefore corporate customers have historically established e-invoice relationships with traditional (non bank) service providers. The customer requirements are more fragmented in the B2B area where there are different needs for different type of customers (e.g. suppliers to automobile industry, suppliers to telecom industry, etc.)
The Swedish banks started a B2B project in 2006 aiming to establish a cooperation model similar to the successful B2C model. The project was completed 2008. The result of this project so far is an inter-bank B2B e-invoice format which is based on the Finvoice and BGC Invoice formats. So far the inter-bank format isn’t communicated to the market.
The participating banks have agreed upon a common technical & commercial rulebook and system integration is established between the Swedish banks.
There are several e-invoice standards on the Swedish market. As mentioned above the most common formats are Finvoice, developed by the Finnish Bankers Association, BGC Invoice, developed by the Swedish Automated Clearing House (Bankgirocentralen) and Svefaktura, developed by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. Svefaktura is implemented as the standard format for Swedish state authorities.
There are several ways for corporate customers to send and receive B2B invoices in Sweden. SME customers can send invoices by a web interface or by file based communication directly from the ERP system using third party communication software. Large corporate customers can send and receive invoices directly from/to their ERP system in their own format, but in this case an IT project is often needed. Some banks try to minimize the IT investments needed by offer ready made packages for the most common formats on the market.
Today the banks offer different levels of e-invoice services integrated directly with the internet-bank but this interface will gradually be developed.
The overall ambition for the banks is to offer “single point of entry” solutions where the sending or receiving customer doesn’t have to take in consideration which format the counterpart is using. The banks offer a message broker service which converts the sender’s e-invoice format to the format used by the receiver. There is also automated routing or a simple way of addressing invoices between the banks. The banks don’t need to exchange customer related address information before the exchange of invoices which is normally the case between non bank service providers.
Most Swedish banks have signed bilateral agreements with non bank service providers. The customer demand for services is strong and stable and the banks are focusing on building the customer base to reach a critical mass of customers.
The Swedish Bankers´ Association is responsible for the coordination of the Swedish B2B Interbank e-invoice cooperation.[/private]