Basic bank accounts for all

Parliament insists that all banks must offer a basic payment account to anyone legally residing in the EU

December 12th, 2013
European Parliament Press Service

Anyone legally residing in the EU should have the right to open a basic payment account, and this right should not be denied on grounds of nationality or place of residence, said MEPs voting on draft EU legislation to this end on Thursday. Fees and rules for these accounts should be transparent and comparable, and it should be easy to switch to another basic account offering better terms, adds the text, which will now be fine-tuned with EU member states.

"In today's world, consumers as well as the retail sector depend upon access to modern payment services. Providing electronic payment services is not very costly, and they can make consumers' lives easier, boost business efficiency and help to modernize our economies. Parliament therefore considers it urgently necessary to require banks to provide these services and empower consumers to make informed choices. Parliament has dealt promptly with this file, and it is now up to EU member states to do likewise, so that we can conclude work on this file in spring next year", said lead MEP Jürgen Klute (GUE/NGL, DE), after the vote.

Open access

Parliament insisted that all payment service providers must be required to offer a basic payment account, albeit with some exceptions to be decided by EU member states on objective and restrictive grounds. These accounts could be opened by anyone legally residing in the EU, and provided they have a genuine link to the member state where they apply to open it, the payment provider would not be entitled to refuse.

Clear Information

Anyone who opens a payment account should be able to understand its fee structure and to compare account offers – this information should be clear and standardised across the EU. In each EU member state there should be at least one independent website comparing the fees charged and interest paid by banks, together with their levels of service. MEPs ensured that banks would be required to inform their clients that they offer these accounts.

Characteristics of a basic account

“Basic” payment accounts would enable customers to pay in and withdraw cash and execute payment transactions within the EU, but would not include any overdraft facilities. All payment service providers would have to offer these accounts as part of their regular business, and charge lower fees for them than for any other services they provide, say MEPs.

Customers should be able to switch to another basic account offered by a bank located in the EU for a reasonable fee. Banks should keep all payment account details up to date, and be liable for any delays or losses resulting from a failure to do so, adds the text.

Next steps

Parliament gave its negotiators a strong mandate to fine-tune the law with member states.

Procedure: Co-Decision first reading (vote on amendments)