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Consumer access to basic payment accounts

Access to basic payment accounts by European consumers should be guaranteed in all European Union (EU) countries. To this end, the Commission presents the general principles which should guide the provision of this type of financial service.

ACT

Commission Recommendation 2011/442/EU of 18 July 2011 on access to a basic payment account (Text with EEA relevance) [OJ L 190 of 21.7.2011].

SUMMARY

European consumers who do not have a payment account should be able to open and use a basic payment account, irrespective of their financial situation or their place of residence in the European Union (EU). The Commission therefore recommends that at least one payment service provider * offers this service in each Member State.

Characteristics of a basic payment account

The payment services offered must enable as a minimum:

  • all the operations required for the opening, operating and closing of a payment account to be carried out;
  • money to be placed on a payment account;
  • cash withdrawals from a payment account;
  • execution of payment transactions, by credit transfers or by transfers of funds, including through a payment card (however, without the possibility of becoming overdrawn).

Access to a basic payment account should not be made conditional on the purchase of additional services.

Charges associated with a basic payment account

Member States should ensure that the basic payment account is provided either free of charge or at a reasonable charge. Where the provision is not free of charge, the total amount of charges for using the minimum payment services should be reasonable.

In all cases, all other charges provided for in the account contract should be reasonable, including those applied where consumers do not meet their contractual obligations.

The amount of charges to the consumer should be calculated according to the:

  • national income levels and consumer prices;
  • average charges associated with payment accounts in the Member State concerned;
  • total costs relating to the provision of the basic payment account.

Supervision and dispute resolution

Member States should designate competent authorities independent from payment service providers to monitor compliance with these recommendations.

In addition, they should ensure that complaint and redress procedures are put in place in the event of disputes.

Consumer information

If a service provider rejects an application to open an account, it must provide a justification for its refusal and inform the consumer in writing. However, limitations to this right to information may be made by legislative measures on the grounds of national security or public order.

Service providers must provide sufficient information on the specific features of the accounts offered, the associated charges and their conditions of use.

Member States should organise public awareness-raising campaigns concerning the options offered by basic payment accounts, pricing conditions and the options for of out-of-court proceedings in the event of disputes.

Key terms
  • Payment service providers: specifically organisations which can be credit, payment or electronic money institutions or post office giro institutions.
Last updated: 28.09.2011
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