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Brussels, 20 March 2014
European Parliament and Council back Commission proposal on right of citizens to a basic bank account
The European Parliament and the Council have today reached political agreement on the Commission proposal to make bank accounts accessible to all, transparent and easier to switch. The formal adoption is expected in the coming weeks.
The Directive is a major step towards a real single market for retail financial services bringing numerous benefits to EU citizens. By providing for a right to a basic payment account irrespective of a citizen's place of residence or financial situation, the obstacles faced by many in accessing basic banking services cross-border are removed. The Directive also substantially improves the transparency of bank account fees, makes it easier to switch a bank account from one bank to another, within a Member State or from one EU country to another.
Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said: "In today's world, not having access to a basic bank account makes it difficult and more expensive to participate in everyday life – paying the electricity bill or receiving a salary for example. Today’s agreement brings us a step closer to finally giving all European citizens access to a basic bank account, enabling them to participate fully in society and take advantage of the benefits of the Single Market. The Directive will make it easier for consumers to search for better offers and lower costs for their bank accounts and change bank accounts if they want to. I would like to thank the European Parliament – especially the Rapporteur Jürgen Klute and the shadow rapporteurs – and the Greek and Lithuanian Presidencies for their work on this file."
Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said: "Today's agreement is good news for consumers, in particular the vulnerable ones left without a bank account. Now everyone will have the right to open an account and reap the benefits for example, from on-line shopping but also carry out basic operations like receiving state contributions such as pensions or other benefits. Information on the account including on fees will be more transparent and consumers can compare conditions and change their account more easily, avoiding any unnecessary costs."
Key elements of the agreement
The Directive tackles three principal areas:
Bank accounts are essential for participating fully in the economic and social life of a modern society, since the use of cash is rapidly decreasing. They have become an indispensable part of our everyday life, allowing us to make and receive payments, shop online, and pay utility bills (telephone, gas, electricity). However, according to reliable studies, around 58 million EU consumers over the age of 15 still do not have a payment account.
Furthermore, research showed that consumers found it difficult to compare offers and prices for payment accounts from different payment service providers. Even when comparison is possible, the process for switching from their existing payment account to a different one is complex and unreliable. Moreover, there are situations where EU consumers are still unable to open a payment account in a Member State where they are not resident or if they do not have sufficient financial resources.
In order to address these issues, on 8 May 2013, the European Commission adopted the proposal for a Directive on the transparency and comparability of payment account fees, payment account switching and access to a basic payment account (IP/13/415).