Brussels - EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether
a group of banks, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Spain’s BBVA, is blocking
new players from entering the European online payments market.
The European Commission opened an investigation into the
standardisation process for e-payments by the European Payments Council (EPC)
on Monday, saying the move was prompted by a complaint. It did not identify the
"Standards promote interoperability and competition, but we
need to ensure that the standardisation 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).
EPC could not be reached for comment.
In its July newsletter, EPC head Gerard Hartsink said the commission’s competition division had requested information on the cooperation
of competing banks and payment institutions regarding rules and technical
standards for payment services.
EPC’s other members include Spain’s Banco Santander, the
British unit of Citigroup, Barclays Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and
Almunia, who is currently investigating credit default
swaps, Libor transactions by banks and the activities of several providers of
financial information, has said repeatedly that distortions in competition may
pose systemic risks for EU economies because of the prominent role of capital