In principle, the member states find the comprehensive strategy for retail payments that the EU Commission presented in September good. This is intended to make payments in seconds for purchases on the Internet and in stores throughout the EU standard. The countries want EU-wide instant payments to be promoted with this instrument in order to reduce their dependence on “large global players” in this sector such as Apple or Google.
This emerges from the conclusions of the Commission’s plan for a “fully integrated retail payment system”, adopted by the EU Council of Ministers on Monday. The relevant market must be “competitive, innovative and inclusive”. Further initiatives to facilitate linking for “Instant Payments” on a global level are important. According to the member states, the standard introduced in 2017 for SEPA transfers within seconds requires further legislative measures in order to gain greater acceptance. It is important to promote additional functions such as payment requests, QR codes and “proxy lookup” services.
Hardly any cross-border services
The Council expresses concern about hurdles that operators of technical infrastructures may impose on payment service providers, as these could considerably weaken the European ecosystem and hinder the development of Europe-wide payment solutions. Even concepts for strong customer authentication should not lead to certain groups of payment service users being excluded.
Most domestic payment solutions based on cards or instant payments did not work across borders, the panel complains. This contributes to the fragmentation of the EU retail payments market, as there is a lack of common standards in some areas. The Council also brings legislative measures into play to ensure a right of access to technical infrastructures, for example with the NFC short-range radio standard.
Cash continues to be important
According to the EU countries, the Covid 19 pandemic has already made it clear how extremely important secure, accessible and convenient digital payment methods are, for example for remote transactions. But they are also aware “that cash continues to play an important role in retail payments in most Member States, especially among certain population groups”.
The Council recognizes the potential advantages of digital central bank currencies such as a digital euro with a view to the transformation of the economy and the sovereignty of the EU. At the same time, however, the committee underlines possible serious effects on the business models of financial intermediaries and other service providers, on financial stability, monetary policy and privacy. The member states also support the Commission’s announcement that it will comprehensively review the ongoing implementation of the EU Payment Services Directive PSD2.