EU opens antitrust probe into e-payment market

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2011 5:58 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether a group of banks, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and BBVA, is blocking new players from entering the European online payments market.

The European Commission, which opened an investigation into the standardization process for e-payments by the European Payments Council (EPC) on Monday, said the move was prompted by a complaint, but it did not identify the complainant.

"Standards promote interoperability and competition, but we need to ensure that the standardization process does not unnecessarily restrict opportunities for non-participants," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

The Commission said the exclusion of new players and payment providers not controlled by a bank could result in higher prices for web merchants and consumers.

EPC, which is the coordination and decision-making body of the European banking industry in relation to payments, supports the creation of an integrated payments market through the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).

Its other members include Spain's Banco Santander, the British unit of Citigroup, Barclays Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Intesa Sanpaolo.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Rex Merrifield)