Basic banking services should be a legal right for the 10% of EU citizens who currently do not have any, including homeless people, those on very low incomes, students, people with no credit record and expatriate workers, Parliament said on Wednesday. MEPs called on the Commission to table legislation by January 2013 to tackle this financial exclusion.

During the debate on Tuesday, Jürgen Klute, who drafted the non-legislative resolution, said: "Banks have a responsibility to society. It cannot only be about profits. This resolution has strong cross party support and we now count on the Commission to come up with the legislation".

Soft approach not working

Legislation is needed at EU level because simple Commission recommendations have yielded the desired results in only a few countries and banks have a natural tendency to target only commercially attractive clients.

The cheapest option with no strings attached ...

The basic payment account must always be cheaper than any alternative offered by a given institution, the resolution says.

Banks and other institutions offering payment accounts must not be able to refuse to grant such an account on grounds such as low income, type of employment, credit history, or level of indebtedness. Most importantly, they must not be allowed to make the basic account conditional on the purchase of other products or services, adds the text.

...  which allows all basic transactions

The basic account would allow a person to carry out any essential payment transaction such as receiving income or benefits, paying bills or taxes, buying goods and services, making cash withdrawals, and printing account statements.

The resolution was adopted by 585 votes to 68, with 5 abstentions.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution