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  • Thierry Spanjaard

GIE-CB stronghold undermined: a new ambush to European payment sovereignty

Until now, the French were used to a totally unified card payment landscape where their payment cards bearing GIE-CB (GIE Cartes Bancaires), Visa or Mastercard logos were uniformly accepted throughout all merchants, offline as well as online.

Things are changing fast with a couple recent announcements:

Visa, a longstanding and powerful sponsor of the Olympics has announced that they signed an exclusivity agreement with the Organization Committee valid until 2032. Under this agreement, they have the exclusivity of transactions in Olympics shops set up for the 2024 games in Paris. Consequently, consumers are only able to pay for their purchases with either a Visa card or cash. Unfortunate Mastercard, Amex or other schemes cardholders are directed to the nearest ATM, ruining decades of efforts of the whole payment industry to deter people from using cash.

In related news, BPCE, one of the leading issuers of banking cards in France, is now issuing its cards with a single Visa logo, a revolution against the existing situation where debit cards issued in France are bearing the GIE-CB logo along with Visa or Mastercard ones. Consequently, even domestic transactions executed with these cards will have to be routed through the international servers of Visa.

Trust in open competition could make us rejoice seeing the GIE-CB quasi monopoly being weakened. But in fact, this weakening of GIE-CB position only benefits to the much stronger duopoly Visa and Mastercard, which have got the inconvenience of not being European. All of us Europeans should keep in mind what happened to Russian citizens a year ago when, all of a sudden, their Visa or Mastercard cards were no longer usable out of Russia. European sovereignty in payments has to be always reaffirmed to reduce our dependency on external powers.

Is this dependency solution what we want when our politicians keep on talking about sovereignty issues, but at the same time are so lenient in making decisions leading towards a strong European independent payment scheme? Affirming European sovereignty is not only a matter of speech, actions should demonstrate a political will to strengthen European payment sovereignty. Will EPI fit this bill?

Photo credits:, Pixabay, and Liza Summer

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