In France, the Livret A is an instant-access regulated, interest-bearing savings account. The interest is exempt from income tax. All banks can offer it.
Since 2009, the French authorities have imposed a number of additional obligations on La Banque Postale linked to the distribution of the Livret A in order to meet a need for banking accessibility. Under the new agreement applicable since 1 January 2015, La Banque Postale is required to:
- open a Livret A free of charge for all clients who request it;
- offer free of charge at all its branches a number of other banking services, such as free cash deposits and withdrawals, including for very low amounts; and
- maintain a territorial presence in areas where other banks have little presence, for example in fragile peri-urban areas, in order to guarantee access to the Livret A.
These obligations constitute the general interest task entrusted to La Banque Postale of ensuring banking accessibility. Its purpose is to facilitate access to banking services by economically disadvantaged people, without stigmatising them and without creating unjustified distortion of competition. A significant number of disadvantaged people use La Banque Postale's Livret A to access basic banking payment services.
La Banque Postale receives compensation from the French State for discharging these public service obligations. On the basis of the figures presented by France for the period 2015-2020, this amount is €1.83 billion. The Commission has found that this compensation does not exceed the net cost of discharging these public service obligations. Moreover, if overcompensation should occur, a procedure has been put in place requiring La Banque Postale to repay any excess compensation to the French State.
On this basis, the Commission concluded that the French measures were in line with EU State aid rules.
The Commission assessed the measure under Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the rules on the provision of services of general economic interest (SGEIs). Given that the compensation to La Banque Postale was granted after the adoption of the package of Commission rules on SGEIs of 20 December 2011, the provisions of that package apply in this case. On the basis of the agreement to be implemented, the Commission considers that this aid is compatible with the internal market.
In view of the rapid developments in methods of distribution in the banking sector, the Commission's conclusions concern only the period 2015-2020 and are without prejudice to the future assessment of the measure should it be extended.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be published in the State aid register under No SA.41147 on the website of DG Competition, as soon as any confidentiality problems have been resolved. The electronic newsletter State Aid Weekly e-News lists the most recent State aid decisions published in the Official Journal and on the internet.