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Big Banks Accused Of Excluding Competition In Setting European Payments Standards

Posted  August 26, 2011

Banks in the European Payments Council (EPC) are being probed by the antitrust department of the European Commission (EC) as a result of Payment Network AG’s complaint that it was locked out of the process to set the standard for streamlining payments systems in Europe.

EPC members include banks such as Lloyds TSB, Citibank, Barclays, UBS, HSBC Holdings Plc and Deutsche Bank AG.

The EPC is the “decision-making and coordination body of the European banking industry in relation to payments” that was formed to implement a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).  SEPA is a “European Union integration initiative in the area of payments” involving standards and practices aimed at a Single Market for payments in Europe.

According to the EPC, the group must answer an EC request for information about the “cooperation of banks and payment institutions for designing rules and standards for e-payment services.”  The investigation was sparked after Payment Network AG accused the EPC of excluding it from the standard-setting process altogether, after several requests last year from Payment Network to become involved in the creation of a draft standard and logo were ignored by the EPC.

If Payment Network is excluded from the proposed SEPA standards, it would be unable to display the proposed SEPA logo used by rivals, which could be a big competitive disadvantage if consumers believed its network was not secure.

The EPC claims it is receiving “diverging messages” from regulators who are asking for accelerated adoption of common standards to ease payments made in Euros, but at the same time scrutinizing the decisions made by the group in the name of competition.

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,