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IP/07/596

Brussels, 2 May 2007

Internal Market: Commission launches debate on future EU policy on retail financial services

The European Commission has set out, in the form of a Green Paper, its vision for future EU policy on retail financial services, which are financial products such as bank accounts, loans, mortgages, investments and insurance provided to individual consumers. The Green Paper aims to strengthen and deepen the Commission's understanding of the problems faced by consumers and industry in this area, to set out the Commission's overarching objectives and to highlight areas where more work may be needed. It is an important contribution to the Commission's current review of the Single Market to ensure that its policies are fit for the 21st century (see IP/07/214). The Commission welcomes comments on the Green Paper by 16 July 2007.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said: "We want to create a real single market for retail financial services and bring a range of tangible benefits to European consumers: quality products that meet their needs, increased confidence in the products and services on offer, and better information and advice on which to base their choices. I invite everyone to give us their views on how best to achieve this."

Retail financial services are an essential part of the everyday lives of EU citizens. However, despite significant progress in recent years, studies show that retail financial services integration appears not yet to have reached its potential and that competition seems insufficient in some areas, leaving EU consumers unable to take full advantage of the benefits of the Single Market.

Building on the Commission's White Paper on Financial Services, the results of the Commission's sector inquiry into retail banking and the interim report on business insurance, the Green Paper on Retail Financial Services sets out the overarching objectives of the Commission’s policy in the area of retail financial services, presents in more detail the actions necessary to bring the benefits of integrated EU financial market to users, and requests feedback from stakeholders on the direction being taken.

The Commission seeks to develop integration in retail financial services markets in three main ways:

First, the provision of products that meet consumers' needs, offering choice, value and quality, can be ensured through properly regulated open markets and strong competition.

Second, European consumers need confidence to make the right choices. This can be achieved by ensuring that consumers are properly protected where appropriate, and that providers are financially sound and trustworthy.

Third, consumer confidence in seeking out the best deals to meet their needs, regardless of the location of the financial services provider, can be promoted by empowering consumers to make the right decisions for their financial circumstances. Empowerment can be developed through financial literacy, clear, appropriate and timely information provision, high-quality advice and a level playing field between products perceived as having similar characteristics.

The Commission will organise a hearing on 19 September 2007 to draw the conclusions of the consultation launched by this Green Paper and discuss with all stakeholders which initiatives are needed to bring about a more efficient internal market for retail financial services. The results of the consultative process will be incorporated into the Single Market Review, to be published autumn 2007.

Stakeholders are invited to comment by 16 July 2007. Responses should be sent to: markt-retail-consultation@ec.europa.eu. Responses will be placed on the Commission's website unless explicitly indicated otherwise.

The Green Paper and information on how to participate in the hearing is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/finservices-retail/policy_en.htm

MEMO/07/160


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