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17 October 2002

A Possible Legal Framework for the Single Payment Area in the Internal Market - Summary of responses

Excerpt of Summary:

This document summarises the 34 responses received from the public sector, consumer organisations, and the banking and payment sector on the Working Document “A Possible Legal Framework for the Single Payment Area in the Internal Market”.

All respondents saw a need for some legal measures to achieve a Single Payment Area. Views varied, however, on the scope and degree of the legal measures required. Respondents considered the objectives of rationalisation and consolidation of existing Community instruments to be desirable. The current legislation was regarded as fragmented, overlapping and even in some case contradictory.

Although views diverged on the need of new legally binding provisions it was deemed that new legislative provisions should be limited to those necessary to ensure a well-functioning use of retail payment services throughout the European Union.

According to some responses, the main objective for any new legal provisions should be to harmonise current legislation and not to introduce new provisions. On some issues it was generally recognised that non-legislative measures would, as a general rule, be sufficient.

On the choice of the legal instrument at EU-level a number of respondents expressed the view that market initiatives should be the first option when problems became apparent.

Many respondents saw a need for close co-operation between the Commission and the ECB, as the responsibility of the smooth functioning of payment systems lay with the ECB.

In those cases where new legislative initiatives were deemed necessary, a number of respondents, especially from the banking and payment industry, favoured maximum harmonisation in order to ensure a clear and consistent legal framework. Minimum harmonisation was not automatically the best choice for all payment instruments and services, such as electronic money, direct debit, and bankcards.

Other respondents favoured, however, minimum harmonisation. The “one size fits all” or “full harmonisation” approach was not regarded as the most efficient way of legislating as it would not allow for a flexible, “market sensitive” approach and not take account of cultural/legal differences between markets.

According to a third group of respondents the choice between maximum and minimum harmonisation should be made on a case-by-case basis taking into account the aim and content of the relevant regulation.

Regarding the legal instrument, many respondents, especially from the public sector, favoured directives. Directives would better allow for maintaining clarity, consistency and terminological conformity with national legislation when implementing them. According to views from the banking and payment sector, however, regulations would be preferred for efficiency reasons – but only in those cases where and when legislation was unavoidable.

Summary of responses
Working document on “A Possible Legal Framework for the Single Payment Area in the Internal Market”.

© European Commission

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