Banks should charge equally for cross-border and domestic payments in national currencies and cut charges for euro payments from non-euro areas.
The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee MEPs voted on Monday to put an end to the existence of two categories of payment service users in the EU; those who benefit from the single euro payments area ('SEPA') and the users paying high costs for their cross-border payments in euro.
Cross-border payments in euro from non-euro area member states account for around 80% of all cross-border transactions. For such transactions, banks levy excessively high charges, despite already existing SEPA infrastructure enabling low cost transfers across the EU. This puts non-euro member states at a disadvantage in the EU single market, say MEPs.
MEPs agreed with the Commission proposal to align charges for cross-border payments within the EU with charges for domestic payments made in the official currency of a member state. They also proposed to encourage and monitor new entrants to the market in order to foster competition and drive down transaction costs.
Currency conversions: bank transfers and card based transactions
MEPs want service providers to disclose the full costs of the currency conversions for both bank transfers and card-based transactions, including any transaction fee. This should be disclosed prior to the start of a transaction.
The costs of the conversion should be expressed “as the difference between the exchange rate used for converting the payment transaction and the latest available reference exchange rate of the ECB, as applied to the transaction amount.”
Additionally for card-based payments, MEPs proposed that:
- information regarding all currency conversion options should be provided free of charge
- points of sales and ATMs should always provide the option of paying in the local currency
- customers should always be able to both block or switch to alternative currency conversion services
- currency conversion rates should be those valid at the time of the start of the transaction.
The text was adopted with 37 votes to 3 and 3 abstentions. The final shape of these new provisions is subject to the negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.