Fragmented Retail Financial Services in EU Commission's Sights

  • European Commission starts consultation on retail sector
  • Say European market suffers from insufficient competition

The European Union aims to tackle retail-banking inefficiencies that make it difficult for consumers to transfer money and take out mortgages across borders in the 28-nation bloc.

Citing wide gaps in the pricing of retail financial products across member states and insufficient competition, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, sought views on how to strengthen the system as part of its capital markets union drive, which seeks to break down national barriers to a single European market.

“Financial products like bank accounts, mortgages and insurance are hugely important in the daily lives of millions of Europeans,” said Jonathan Hill, the EU financial-services commissioner. “But people often miss out on the best deals, or pay over the odds because of the barriers that exist in the European market. In this, as in other areas, the single market can bring benefits.”

The commission pointed to the difference in annual fees charged for credit cards, which can vary from 9.10 euros ($10) in Romania to almost 114 euros in Slovakia and the disparity in costs of offline credit transfers that “are free in some nations, but can cost an average of 3.58 euros in France.” It also pointed out that fewer than 3 percent of Europeans purchase mortgages and open accounts in other member states, adding that more competition in mortgage markets could be “useful.”

The consultation period ends on March 18. A conference in early 2016 will assess feedback and pave the way for an action plan mid-year that could include legislative initiatives.

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