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Investigation into e-payment standards development dropped

The European Commission has closed a near-two year investigation into the electronic payments (e-payments) market after plans to develop new standards in the market were shelved.17 Jun 2013

The Commission had been investigating whether new e-payment standards, which were being developed by the European Payments Council (EPC), would have had the effect of locking out non-EPC members from participating in the market. A host of major banking institutions, including Barclays, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, are members of the EPC.

However, the complaint which prompted the Commission to launch its investigation in September 2011 was withdrawn after the EPC announced that it had stopped working on the new standards. As a consequence, the Commission has now closed its investigation, but it warned that it would continue to monitor developments in the market.

"The Commission had concerns that through its work on standards for e-payments, and in particular the e-Payments Framework, the EPC could exclude new entrants not linked to a bank from the e-payments market," the regulator said in a statement. "In the course of the investigation the EPC announced its decision to stop the development of the e-Payments Framework and any other standardisation initiatives that would have the same object or effect. As a result, the complainant in this case, Sofort AG, withdrew its complaint. Under these circumstances ... the Commission has decided to close its investigation."

"Internet payments are vital for the development of e-commerce and the good functioning of the EU internal market. The Commission, in close co-operation with national competition authorities, will therefore monitor this market closely to ensure healthy competition and a level playing field for all operators," it added.

The Commission also said that it is considering whether to set "objective and non-discriminatory rules for all players active in the e-payments market" under new legislation.

"These rules would be aimed at ensuring that customers can make secure payments while ensuring that new players are not prevented from entering the market," it said.