European Commission Green Paper on card, mobile and e- payments

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1 European Commission Green Paper on card, mobile and e- payments A Cicero Consulting Special Report

2 2 Contents page Cicero Introduction Page 3 Current payments landscape Page 5 Objectives Page 5 Possible ways to further integrate the EU market in card, mobile, Page 5 and e-payments Market fragmentation, access, and entry across borders Page 5 Transparent pricing Page 7 Standardisation Page 8 Interoperability Page 8 Security Page 9 Governance issues Page 9

3 3 Introduction We re in an age where financial transactions in shares and derivatives can be completed within milliseconds yet on the retail side, despite the advances, cross border transactions are being dragged across the EU 27 at the speed resembling that of a horse and cart. Increased competition and further integration is required and it is this which is providing the motivation behind the joint effort by Internal Market Commissioner Mr Barnier and Competition Commissioner Mr Almunia to reignite the debate on how to boost the effectiveness of the ecommerce sector and in turn break down remaining barriers to secure and innovative card, internet and mobile payments. The payments industry has to a large extent stood apart from many within the wider financial services community, never been seen as a part of the cause of the crisis, but it does of course face its own challenges whether the provision of credit, through card charge fees or issues over data protection. The global banking system is under stress and from a payments perspective banks must decide whether their current business and operating models are suited to shifting industry dynamics, with a number of large businesses looking at disposing of their card businesses which they see as non -core assets. Recent advances in payment technology and the fact that existing systems lack the flexibility to keep up with increasing demand has led financial institutions to consider implementing payment hubs. This in effect would mean transforming an organisation s existing silo-based payment infrastructure into a type of multilateral platform that is capable of processing any type of payment irrespective of the channel or how it is cleared and value. The challenge for the European Commission will be to ensure that any such move towards, for example, payment hubs would contribute towards European market integration. To do that, the Commission will need to end what it terms as the stalemate between mobile network operators, banks and e-players (e.g Google, Apple). Taking the Apple IPhone as an example, it does not have Near Field Communications (ability to pay someone through your phone) because currently there are not clear industry standards in place for such m-payments and this is likely to feed through into European Commission policy thinking. To achieve such a level of integration does of course necessitate greater consolidation of industry efforts. From an industry perspective there will be concern that the Commission is frowning upon the effect that proprietary solutions are having on further fragmenting the market. The policy world is running to stand still against the profound changes in new technologies, new market participants and industry collaborations. As banks in particular struggle to regain the confidence of their custome rs it will be technologies and proprietary solutions that will help them to re-engage with their customer base. The Commission has a hearty challenge ahead in finding agreement on a single business model enabling

4 4 interoperable payment solutions bearing in mind the length of time it took to find agreement on the Singe Euro Payment Area (SEPA). From a retailers perceptive, there will be interest in amending the current requirements of the Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) which are applied by credit card companies. Similarly they will be looking for possible standardisation of cross-border transaction fees which vary throughout the EU. Submissions can be made as part of the consultation process until 11 April. Helena Walsh Regional Director Cicero Brussels

5 5 Current payments landscape The European Commission notes that the euro retail payments market is one of the largest in the world, including millions of companies and hundreds of millions of citizens. However, the degree of integration of this market differ per instrument (such as cards) and per channel (such as mobile and e-payments). In particular in e-commerce, there is significant growth potential, which is held back by the absence of reliable and integrated online payment systems. Specifically on mobile payments both online and offline, the volume of such payments is currently the fastest growing of all payment methods, either remotely through mobile internet connections, or through proximity payments using wireless Near Field Communications technol ogy. The Commission underlines in the Green Paper that in all these markets, there is a lack of a European framework addressing concerns such as technical standards, security and inter-operability. These need to be addressed to ensure market integration. Objectives The Commission s vision is to create a digital single market for euro and ultimately non-euro markets for payments made both domestically and across borders. Their end objective is for consumers to be able to use a single bank account for all payment transactions, regardless of where they are based in the EU; businesses and public administrations to be able to streamline payments across the EU; merchants to be able to take advantage of cheaper and more efficient payment systems which would be improved through increased competition; payment service providers to be able to take advantage of increased economies of scale; and for technology providers to focus on creating pan - European payment solutions that would in turn, encourage innovation in the market. Fostering and accelerating market integration The Commission sets out five priorities for stimulating the integration of e - and m-payments. These are outlined as follows: 1. Market fragmentation, market access and market entry across borders Multilateral Inter-Charge Fees The Commission has identified the disparate range of fees charged by a card holder s payment services provider to merchants and the different timing and scope of legal proceedings currently underway to address these disparities as a barrier to the development of the single market. The consultation questions if action on interchange fees is required and seeks views on the current legal set up and if there is scope for amendments to be made to the legal regime.

6 6 Cross-border acquiring The Commission recognises the benefits to competition and efficiency of cross-border acquiring but believes that the difference in technical standards across territories and separate rules introduced by international card schemes have made cross-border acquiring less attractive to merchants. The Commission seeks further information on the scale of the problems in this area and how they could be alleviated. Co-badging The Commission is concerned that co-badging could raise competition issues if it is used to restrict the use of certain brands that appear on the cards or particular payment instruments. This relates to the practice of allowing two different brands to appear on a card and then providing for a choice of which brand they use for payment. The Commission asks for further information on the use of co-branding and any restrictions that could be problematic in supporting the growth of a single market. Separating card schemes and card payment processing The Commission believes that the practice of combining card payment and processing schemes could act as a barrier to entry as in some cases, payment companies force participants to use their own payment processing schemes. Separating the two processes would increase competition and make it easier for new participants to enter the market. The Commission asks for views on whether the bundling of card payment and processing is problematic and if there is a case for action that requires separation. Access to settlement systems Payment institutions do not have access to clearing systems and as a result, find it harder to compete with banks that have their own clearing and settlement systems. The Commission asks in the consultation the extent to which non-direct access to clearing systems is a problem and if a common card-processing framework system should be created. Compliance with the SEPA Cards Framework The SEPA Cards framework will harmonise the payment systems used to handle euros and create incentives for operators to bring their systems into line with the guidelines set out by SEPA. While

7 7 the SEPA Cards Framework is yet to be introduced, the Commission is consulting on the content of the framework as it is expected to decide the future structure of the market. Information on the availability of funds Banks have control over which payment service providers they provide with information of a consumers funds and ability to pay which has the potential to create a conflict of interest as a bank may be willing to provide information to one payment service provider but not another. The Commission asks in the consultation if there is a case for allowing non-bank operators access to information on the availability of funds in a consumers bank account to side -step potential conflict of interest issues. Dependence on payment card transactions The Commission questions if there is need for a set of rules and procedures need to be established that would describe the circumstances in which a card payment scheme can refuse acceptance to companies that are dependent on the use of cards. The Commission asks for further information on this subject. 2. Transparent and cost-effective pricing The Commission notes the cost structures in the card market are opaque which has led to higher payment costs for both consumers and businesses. Furthermore, it argues that payment fees for micro-payments are often seen as excessive. Consumer-merchant relationship: transparency Consumers are unaware of the differing costs of using different methods of payments such as cash or card. The Commission believes that the unnecessary use of cards is increasing the overall cost of doing business and thus recommends that increasing awareness of the cost to the merchant of their paying by card may drive down the unnecessary use of cards and the overall cost of doing business. The Commission asks if merchants should inform the consumer of the cost of their paying by card in an effort to influence consumer behaviour. Consumer- merchant relationship: rebates, surcharging and other steering practices The Commission considers the merit of pushing consumers towards using the most efficient methods of payment by offering rebates or surcharges. The Commission notes its concerns with the use of surcharges and reiterates that they cannot be used as a revenue generator. The Commission

8 8 asks in the consultation if there is a case for further harmonisation of rebates and surcharges for card, e and m payments and if so, how should the Commission aim to encourage certain behaviour. Merchant payment service provider relationship The Commission is seeking to provide the merchant with more power in influencing the consumer s decision on how they pay for products and in choosing which cards they use for payment. There is a feeling within the Commission that merchants are in some instances held hostage by the payment service provider that uses the lack of flexibility on the part of the merchant to introduce higher transaction fees. The Commission identifies the non-discrimination of payment, honour all cards rules and blending practices set by payment services as contributing to high transaction costs. In the consultation, the Commission asks if altering these rules would lead to greater price transparency and a resultant fall in costs or if additional measures would need to be introduced. 3. Standardisation According to the European Commission, standardisation issues arise in both the cards and the mobile and e-payments spheres. On card payments, the lack of common standards can be found specifically in the field of exchange of data between the acquiring and issuing payment services provider (A2I), and between the merchant s payment terminal and acquiring PSP (T2A). Thirdly, every Member State and card scheme has its own certification process for payment chips and terminals. On mobile and e-payments, the lack of standardisation lies predominantly with mobile phone network operators and banks. The internet as a platform provides a relatively stable basis for e - payments The Commission asks whether the identified issues with standardisation are correct and which other should be considered. 4. Interoperability Related to standardisation problems, on interoperability the European Commission notes that problems arise between service providers in the domains of mobile and e-payments. The European Payments Council is establishing an interoperability framework that will create competition between schemes and provide banks with the choice of which scheme to use. EBA Clearing has also established an online-banking based e-payment initiative for their members that will pilot in May 2012.

9 9 Specifically on mobile payments the Commission highlights that a serious risk of fragmentation exists if various segments in the payment chain continue to hold to proprietary standards. It therefore seeks views on whether minimum requirements for interoperability can be identified. 5. Security The last priority for stimulating the integration of the market in card, e- and m-payments is security. The Commission notes that the security of retail payments is a crucial prerequisite for payment users and merchants, especially in the field of fraud. The Commission notes the trade-off between ensuring that payments are secure and maintaining ease of payment. The Commission also notes the importance of authenticating measures for payment systems being compliant with data protection requirements. The Commission believes that creation of an integrated market for secure payments could be a tool in the fight against websites offering illegal or counterfeit goods by rejecting payments made to these sites. In this respect the Commission seeks views on whether payment security should be underpinned by a regulatory framework, and to which market actors that should apply. Governance issues The European Commission divides governance issues in governance of SEPA and governance in the fields of cards, mobile and e-payments. On SEPA, the commission highlights that SEPA is predominately a self-regulatory project form the European banking industry, supported by other participants in the SEPA Council. In the Green Paper the Commission suggests that more active involvement of the EU institutions in the SEPA governance may be useful, for example through a more prominent role for the legislative and regulatory authorities such as the ECB, the Commission or the European Banking Authority (EBA). To improve governance and involvement of stakeholders in the field of specifically mobile and e- payments a number of initiatives have been taken by the European Payments Council. It has set up the Customer Stakeholders Forum and a Cards Stakeholders Group (dealing with card payments). While there also is a self-regulatory group known as the SEPA Cards Framework the Commission notes that there is no formal mechanism to interpret, monitor and enforce SEPA for card schemes or settle disputes. Lastly, the Commission notes that in creating a proper framework for e- and m-payments, integration efforts have been slow to produce tangible results, thereby delaying interoperability, innovation, increased choice and scale effects. It therefore questions whether regulatory intervention is required or not.

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