EU should attract "innovative non-bank players" into market, says EU competition commissioner

Out-Law News | 26 Sep 2014 | 10:51 am | 1 min. read

The EU’s competition commissioner has said he wants “a level playing field” for online payments and to create conditions for “non-bank players to enter the market and innovate”.

Joaquin Almunia, who presented his annual competition report to the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said: “We need to create a level playing field for payments across Europe. Banks and merchants need legal certainty, consumers need reasonable fees and, as regards e-payments, we should create the conditions for non-bank players to enter the market and innovate.”

Almunia said legislation was “the best way to reach these goals”. He said he hoped a proposed regulation on interchange fees for card-based payments, under consideration by the parliament, could be adopted by the end of the year.

“Some key points of our proposal on interchange fees has recently received support by the Court of Justice of the European Union, when it confirmed that MasterCard’s fees restrict competition in the single market,” Almunia said.

According to Almunia, other “crucial areas for Europe’s present and future competitiveness” are information and communications technology and the digital economy. He said: “In the absence of a genuine internal market for telecoms, when recently reviewing some mergers we had to take account of the fact that competition in this industry still takes place on a national basis and that remedies were needed to preserve competitive prices for consumers, and not only the need to finance fresh investments.”

Almunia said antitrust decisions taken by the EU in 2012 and 2013 involving Apple and “major publishers” had “restored fair competition on price to Europe’s e-book market”.

In addition, Almunia said he hoped two decisions adopted earlier this year involving smartphone manufacturers Motorola and Samsung “will ensure that standard-essential patents are not misused in the future”.

Almunia said: “The challenges of enforcing EU competition law in digital markets are mostly linked to their rapid evolution and to the fact that dominant companies can quickly rise to prominence and become gatekeepers for other market players. This is often the result of innovation and smart business models, which we have to support. Market dominance through internal growth, innovation and success is not a competition problem. However, the abuse of a dominant position is indeed a serious competition problem.”