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The European Commission has opened a consultation period on its controversial "e-money" directive. The EC wants businesses to tell it how the directive could be improved to "avoid unnecessary burdens for industry".

Under the directive, providers of e-money will have to provide a way for people to redeem their e-money for real world money. They must also take action to ensure the system is not used for money laundering.

At present, the e-money directive could be applied to the purchase and use of pre-pay mobile phone cards. The definition of electronic money is monetary value stored on a chip card or computer memory which is accepted for payment by someone other than the issuer.

In interpreting this for use at a national level regulators have disagreed as to how the directive should apply in practice. Some countries have, for instance, decided that pre-pay mobile cards are covered by the new rules. Because of the confusion, the Commission decided last year to seek a common interpretation of the law.

That analysis concluded that mobile pre-pay cards do not qualify as e-money if they are used to buy airtime from the company which issued them. But if they are used to buy ringtones, messaging, news, tickets or other products from a third party then they should be considering e-money.

Still awake at the back? Good. Since, even by EU standards, this is an early morning snack for a four-legged pet (dog's breakfast). The Commission has decided to clarify exactly when and where the e-money directive should be applied. It is asking for comments and suggestions from those in the mobile or related industries and from ordinary punters.

Interested parties have until 20 July 2004 to respond to the proposals and more details are available here, where you can download the whole consultation document as well. ®

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