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EU seeks last minute delay of banking data change

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Commission is proposing a last-minute delay to the introduction of standardized European bank account numbers to avoid disruptions that could harm consumers and businesses.

The Commission, the bloc's executive arm, proposed Thursday to allow using the old, shorter national bank account data format for six more months beyond the initial February cut-off date.

The standardized format, called SEPA, is being introduced to enable cheaper, faster and more secure transfers between bank accounts across the 18-country eurozone. But some firms have had trouble updating their IT systems, leading business leaders to fret about payment disruptions starting next month.

The Commission's proposal still needs to be accepted by the European Parliament and EU governments, but spokeswoman Chantal Hughes said the approval is expected to be reached easily.

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