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ECB plans to link bank accounts to mobile numbers

Banking customers may soon be able to use their phone numbers or email addresses to transfer money, according to a report. 09 Feb 2016

European Central Bank (ECB) board member Yves Mersch told Dutch news broadcaster RTL that a user could link their international bank account number (IBAN) to their phone number, ZDNet reported.

Mersch said: "To send payment over your telephone from one country to another, you go onto your contact list, you take the name of a person, and you would immediately also get his IBAN," according to ZDNet.

The ECB has set up a steering group to look at the idea, Mersch told RTL. There is no timeframe for the plan yet, but Mersch said the main issues to be resolved are legal rather than technical, according to ZDNet.

This sounds very similar to a UK-based service called Paym, said technology law expert Angus McFadyen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"Paym is a proxy service so that your phone number is linked to a bank account in a database. The idea is that the consumer only needs to give another person their phone number, as the bank account details are kept secret in the service," he said.

"The question I’d have about an EU wide version is whether it’d be beneficial given the number of banks that would need to sign up to make it viable," McFadyen said.

Payment services such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay allow payment using mobile phones and near-field communication (NFC) technology. NFC uses radio waves to transmit data between devices and allows contactless payments to be made.

Last year, Google announced that Google Wallet would also allow text-message based money transfers.

Facebook has also launched a money transfer service.