PEPPOL: The state of play in Europe
Increasingly across Europe, when dealing with public sector entities, suppliers must present their invoices electronically and in PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement Online) format in order to get them paid. So if, for example, you are a PEPPOL-compliant UK manufacturer of medical devices supplying a PEPPOL-compliant hospital in Sweden, then the procurement staff at the Swedish hospital will order a product from you using its PEPPOL-interfacing procurement system. You can then send the invoice electronically, known as “e-invoicing”, using your order processing systems, which also interface with PEPPOL. Furthermore, thanks to the protocol’s standardisation, you and the hospital can trade with any other PEPPOL-compliant European organisation with ease.
In the UK, it has been the NHS driving the adoption of PEPPOL. Across Europe, PEPPOL is being adopted more widely for public sector e-procurement initiatives.
Scandinavia has led the way for PEPPOL, with Norway being the first country to introduce it. It has been mandatory for suppliers to send e-invoices to government administration using PEPPOL since July 2012, and local government since January 2015. With the vast majority of central government organisations, regions and municipalities able to receive PEPPOL-based e-invoices, approximately 21 million e-invoices were exchanged in Scandinavia via PEPPOL in 2015.
It has been mandatory for Danish suppliers to send e-invoices through the national e-invoicing platform, NemHandel, since 2005. Denmark used their experience to contribute to the design, development and implementation of PEPPOL, which has a similar infrastructure. Danish suppliers using the NemHandel network can reach users on the PEPPOL network and the intention is to make a full migration to PEPPOL.
In Sweden, it will be mandatory for government agencies to use PEPPOL’s infrastructure from 1st November 2018. The Swedish National Financial Management Authority reported that over 50% of the public authorities in Sweden were connected to PEPPOL at the end of 2015.
Suppliers to the Dutch public sector will be asked to send PEPPOL e-invoices from 1st January 2017. The Netherlands piloted the PEPPOL specifications for e-invoicing during the ‘SimplerInvoicing’ programme in the summer of 2013. The Belgian region of Flanders also starts e-invoicing via PEPPOL on 1st January 2017.
In France, all private sector suppliers will need to send e-invoices to the public sector in a gradual national e-invoicing roll-out between January 2017 and 2020. A successful PEPPOL pilot was completed at the end of 2012 by the Montpelier Hospital and medical supplier B. Braun Medical. E-catalogues and updates on medical device item categories were exchanged, with GS1 standards playing a key role for unique device identification. This solution allows any provider or manufacturer to send detailed information on product specifications, such as chemical content and packaging. It also updates the hospital’s ERP system; every time an update is made on the supplier’s side, the information can be synchronized and shared with other purchasers.
More than 40 PEPPOL pilots have been completed in Italy, where PEPPOL is expected to be a requirement for the national e-procurement community. Italy's Emilia-Romagna region is implementing its e-procurement platform this year. Regional authorities have needed to send orders and receive invoices electronically since January 2016 and the regional health system may only issue orders in e-format from June 2016. Both public authorities and their suppliers will, therefore, soon be bound to adapt to the PEPPOL standard.
Suppliers to the Austrian Federal Government have been obliged to use e-invoices since January 2014, with PEPPOL being one of two accepted e-invoicing methods.
Poland sees PEPPOL connection as a cornerstone of its national e-invoicing implementation strategy. In 2014, the Polish Ministry of Economy became the PEPPOL authority for Poland, overseeing the governance of the network and the implementation of PEPPOL-based solutions at a national level.
In Russia, the National Certification Agency established a PEPPOL access point, connecting Russia with the rest of Europe's public e-procurement infrastructure. The aim is to use PEPPOL as the dominant infrastructure for e-invoices and more.
Returning to the UK, the “Scottish Public Procurement eCommerce Strategy – A digital future for procurement”, recommends that non-domestic procurement transactions can be handled through PEPPOL. Ireland plans to mandate the use of e-invoicing for all public sector authorities soon.
Expect to see the other EU countries showing their plans by early 2017. Meanwhile, the European Commission itself has implemented its own e-invoicing platform (e-PRIOR), based on PEPPOL specifications and have connected to the PEPPOL transport infrastructure.
There is clearly a fast growing network of public bodies, suppliers and private companies across Europe opening up to PEPPOL. To join them, you need to sign up to a PEPPOL access point provider and become PEPPOL-compliant.