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Banks face e-payments antitrust probe

Complaint filed to Euro watchdog

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The European Commission has launched an antitrust probe into e-payments in Europe to find out if a group of banks – including Santander, HSBC and Barclays – is trying to stop new players from getting into the market.

A group called the European Payments Council (EPC) is developing a standardisation for e-payments across the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), but the commission is now investigating whether that process will stop non-bank payment providers from getting in on the action.

The inquiry was opened after the EC received a complaint from someone, but they're not saying who:

The Commission intends to investigate whether the e-payments standardisation process will not unduly restrict competition, for example through the exclusion of new entrants and payment providers who are not linked to a bank.

The Commission has received a complaint which will form part of this investigation.

The top concern for the investigation is that merchants and consumers could end up forking out more on online transactions if competitors are kept out of the game.

"Use of the internet is increasing rapidly, making the need for secure and efficient online payment solutions in the whole Single Euro Payments Area all the more pressing. I therefore welcome the work of the European Payments Council to develop standards in this area," said Jose Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner, in the canned statement.

"In principle, standards promote inter-operability and competition, but we need to ensure that the standardisation process does not unnecessarily restrict opportunities for non-participants."

The EPC is the "coordination and decision-making body of the European banking industry in relation to payments", according to its website, and its members are banks and banking groups. ®

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