Payment Service Directive II: Access to Account will boost innovation in payment landscape

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On 24 July, the Commission has published the long-awaited proposals on the payments market in Europe, consisting of three elements: a revised Payment Services Directive (PSD), a Regulation on multilateral interchange fees (MIF) and a communication on SEPA governance. The package is broadly welcomed by merchants. Paul Alfing, chair e-Payment Committee Ecommerce Europe: “We have high expectations of the concept ‘access to the account’ by the inclusion of third-party payment providers within the PSD and enabling third-party providers to initiate payments. The opening of payments markets to new entrants will significantly improve competition and stimulate innovation in the European payment landscape”.

Revision of the Payment Services Directive (PSD II)

The original Payment Service Directive (2007) opened up the market to some non-bank payment service providers. Overall, Ecommerce Europe very much welcomes the changes to the PSD. In short, Third-party payment providers (TPPs) will be included in the scope of PSD II. This will inject some much-needed competition into the payments market and enabling third party providers to initiate payments will help innovative players offer cheaper and more efficient services and make full use of technological advances in e-payments.
Next to this, the PSD is extended to cover all e-transactions made through IT devices, e.g. mobile, internet etc. (previously these could be exempted). TPPs registered under the PSD will be able to initiate payment transactions on the part of consumers (i.e. banks have to allow them access to payment infrastructures) as long as the consumer gives prior consent and TPP fulfils security requirements. Alfing: “The ability to access the necessary account information will help innovative players offer cheaper, more efficient services and make full use of technological advances in e-payments”.

Regulation on Multilateral Interchange fees (MIFs)

Ecommerce Europe is positive that the MIF regulation will, with the removal of the ‘honour-all-cards’ rule, apply to all consumer card transactions, domestic and cross-border and that it is a per transaction cap. This removal gives merchants the freedom of choice to steer consumers away from over-expensive cards. However, the two-year delay for implementation at domestic level will unnecessarily delay the bulk of the consumer benefit from being realised. We also welcomes the ability to operate real cross-border acquiring. This will allow true economies of scale for merchants and should bring card fees down further in the long-term.
Caps are to be set for both credit and debit cards but consumer cards only. This is a cap per transaction (i.e. no ‘weighted average’ etc.) and will be introduced in two stages:

  • 2 months after entry into force cross border caps: 0.2% cap on debit; 0.3% cap on credit.
  • 2 years after entry into force, domestic caps added: 0.2% cap on all debit; 0.3% cap on all credit.

These caps are welcomed, but a number of strong concerns remain. First, the caps are too high: Some national debit schemes operate with no MIFs: this should be the norm across Europe. We are concerned about negative impact in some Member States, where current fees are lower than 0.2%. Second, the percentage fees are still not justified (retailers should only pay for the cost of the service) and thirdly: commercial cards have been omitted: this is not justified.

Communication on SEPA Governance

The creation of the SEPA Council in 2010 improved the involvement of all parties towards the creation of a Single Euro Payments Area, it’s purely advisory role still meant a major imbalance of power between the role of the user community and the banking community who own the payment systems. Ecommerce Europe welcomes the widening of the SEPA Council, which will be renamed to European Retail Payments Board (ERPB), to more payment user stakeholders. This extended membership by including new market players (e.g. payment institutions, mobile network operators) and adequate representation for demand side will provide a more balanced governance system. Alfing: We are very pleased with the recognition within the ERPB of online retailers next to retailers with a physical presence”. There will also be a second tier multi-stakeholder group to examine specific issues.

The texts of the PSD II, MIF Regulation and SEPA communication plus the commission impact assessment can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/payments/framework/index_en.htm

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