EC launches antitrust investigation on SEPA
The EPC positions itself as the coordinator and decision-making body of the European banking industry for payments. It works for its members, major banks such as Barclays, BNP Paribas and HSBC, to help build an integrated European payments market through Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The self-regulatory project aims to eliminate any differentiation between domestic and cross-border ePayments within a zone encompassing the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Monaco (cf. Smart Insights Weekly #11-23 and #11-25).
The Commission says it supports SEPA and recognizes the importance of standardization in promoting economic integration. However, following a complaint, it will now look into whether the standardization process for ePayments is locking out new entrants and payment providers who are not linked to a bank.
The investigation is aimed to making sure "competition is not unduly restricted, for example through the exclusion of new entrants and payment providers who are not controlled by a bank". Such restrictions would lead to higher prices for internet merchants and ultimately consumers, says the EC.
Gerard Hartsink, EPC chair, says: "The EPC is continuously providing full and transparent information available to all stakeholders… and therefore does not support the allegations by the Directorate General (DG) for Competition of the EC that the EPC's work in this area could potentially discriminate against new market entrants or other service providers."
The EPC emphasizes that SEPA-wide online payment solutions development remains as a ‘work in progress’. There is no legal deadline to complete antitrust investigations.