The European Commission is probing bank’s efforts to self-regulate electronic payments, fearing the move will breach antitrust rules by excluding some players from the market.
Standards work by the Electronics Payment Council – European banks' policy making body – is under investigation to ensure its policies don’t result in new players or those not controlled by a bank being excluded from the market. The EC notes such exclusions would result in higher prices for web retailers and consumers, which would breach competition rules.
Joaquín Almunia, the Commission’s competition vice president, explains the investigation is necessary to “ensure that the standardization process does not unnecessarily restrict opportunities for non-participants.” However he also applauded the bank’s efforts at self regulation at a time when consumers increasingly need secure and reliable online payment systems. “In principle, standards promote interoperability and competition.”
The investigation could be good news for UK carrier Three, which recently discussed an m-payment scheme being established by a consortium of its three main rivals in the country with the EC. The carrier claims its rivals should let it into the developer’s chamber or be forced to scrap the scheme, and is mulling a formal application to the Commission for an anti-competition investigation.