What are the main changes to cheque specifications?
Changes to Canadian cheque specifications in Standard 006, Part A include:
- Adoption of a numeric date field in one of three specified formats (YYYYMMDD, MMDDYYYY or DDMMYYYY). It is essential that field indicators be printed below the date field to indicate which format is being used. Bilingual date field indicators are accommodated for cheques using the international date format (YYYYMMDD).
- A mandatory serial number in the MICR line encoded at the bottom of the cheque (the serial number was previously an optional field in the MICR line).
- An increase in the minimum length of cheques to 6 ¼”, or 15.88 cm, from 6”, to ensure there is sufficient space for the mandatory serial number in the MICR line.
- Specified positions for key fields on the cheque, including the date field and the amount in figures.
- Disallowance of elements that may hinder the capture of images or data from the cheque. For example, inverse printing, italics or slanted fonts, a bottom border printed below the MICR line, and the use of black carbon on the reverse of cheques will not be permitted.
- A provision to ensure that security features do not interfere with key data, or “areas of interest”, as defined in Standard 006, Part A, and either prior to imaging or post imaging. In particular, if a VOID pantograph or other hidden pantograph is used, the pantograph must not be visible on images captured from original cheques.
- New printing requirements on the reverse of the cheque so that image capture can be verified.
- Some revisions to technical specifications (e.g. Print Contrast Signal) to ensure high-quality images can be captured. For example, some complex or colourful backgrounds that have been used on cheques to date may interfere with image quality and may need to be changed.
How do the changes affect companies that use cheques?
All cheques will require some changes.
- Companies that have custom cheques will need to ensure that formats are modified to comply with the new standard. Key changes include adoption of the new numeric date field and printing of the date field indicators below, the printing requirements on the reverse of the cheque, and the mandatory serial number in the MICR line.
If a business cheque in the new format fails testing, can a customer use it until the June 30, 2007 deadline?
Yes, provided that the cheques meet the requirements for the MICR line and other specifications that were in effect prior to the publication of the new “image-friendly” specifications, businesses may continue to use them until June 30, 2007. However, it is strongly recommended that revised sample cheques that meet all of the new specifications be re-submitted for testing as soon as possible, and before that date.
What will happen if some cheques do not fully comply with the new specifications by June 30, 2007?
Financial institutions will determine on a case-by-case basis whether they can accept and process such cheques on an interim basis while the business makes the necessary modifications. By making the transition to the new cheque format before June 30, 2007, businesses will avoid potential problems and be ready to reap the benefits of cheque imaging within their own organizations.
Do the new specifications have any impact on cheque security features?
The CPA’s new cheque specifications will accommodate a range of features currently in use as well as new approaches that are emerging for the image environment, but the transition to image-based processing may have an impact on some security features. For example, some of the traditional paper-based security features will not be visible on cheque images; however, they may still serve to protect against counterfeiting or alteration of cheques. Any security features used on cheques must not interfere, either before or after imaging, with the MICR line or other areas of interest as defined in Standard 006, Part A. In particular, if a VOID pantograph or other hidden pantograph is used, it must not be visible on images captured from the original cheques. As well, certain techniques such as inverse printing that may interfere with image or data capture will no longer be permitted.