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EU pushes for universal bank account access

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EU pushes for universal bank account access

/ 02:37 PM May 07, 2013

BRUSSELS—The European Commission will set out on Wednesday plans for universal access to current accounts with banks — seeking to remedy an exclusion that Brussels calculates affects nearly 60 million adults across the European Union.

Legislative proposals on payment accounts also aim to make it easier to switch banks, similar to EU measures to open up utility markets in recent years.

And finally, according to proposals seen by AFP on Tuesday, they will insist on transparent costs information for consumers.

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Turning the proposals into law will require the approval of EU member governments and the European Parliament, and only after detailed industry submissions.

Payment, or current accounts, will, however, offer limited functionality — the ability to transfer money, but no credit-card and no overdrafts, as is frequently the case at present where banking restrictions are imposed on individuals with poor credit ratings.

“Banks will not be allowed to refuse to open a payment account guaranteeing the minimum essential payment services to a consumer with poor credit history or any other type of financial difficulty,” the Commission documents state.

Exceptions to these rights would be where individuals are found guilty of breaches of money-laundering or anti-terror legislation, or if a similar account already exists in the country concerned.

Consumers should be able to switch banks within 15 days if they chose one in the same country, and within 30 days if they look across borders, as political leaders seek to create a true EU-wide banking union.

In some countries, the proportion of citizens without current accounts is especially high — the Commission estimates, for instance, that 25 million people in Bulgaria and Romania do not have payment accounts, meaning they operate largely on a cash or barter basis.

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TAGS: Banking, EC, European Commission
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