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European Commission Seeks Comments On A United Payments Of Europe

Posted  February 6, 2012

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, is asking for comments about how to overcome obstacles to a modern, integrated card payments system across Europe.

The European Commission is requesting these comments on its “green paper” assessing the current payment landscape in Europe.  This initiative covers all payments – including e-commerce and mobile payments – made with a credit or debit card across the 27-nation European market.

The green paper takes aim at a current market situation fragmented along national borders with a small number of domestic networks and only two major international players – Visa and MasterCard.  According to the green paper, the Single Euro Payment Area or SEPA, which will replace 32 separate payment regimes with a single one to facilitate faster and cheaper cross-border payments, may further entrench this duopoly.  This is because few domestic schemes are accepted outside of their home countries, and many are shutting down.

“Carrying a virtual train ticket or repaying a friend with your mobile phone, buying your groceries online, paying with your debit card abroad — the way European citizens shop and pay is radically changing,” the European Commission’s announcement of the consultation explains. “A secure and transparent integrated payments environment throughout the EU could create more efficient, modern and safer means of payments — for the benefits of consumers, merchants and payment providers.”

The main issues identified in the paper are:

* Market access and entry for existing and new service providers

* Payment security and data protection

* Transparent and efficient pricing of payment services

* Technical standardization

* Inter-operability between service providers

The green paper is available from the EU website and comments may be submitted until April 11, 2012.  The Commission is expected to announce further action before the summer of 2012.

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