The European Commission has accused Standard & Poor's of unfair pricing of fees charged for stock data codes and abusing its dominant position as the sole-appointed National Numbering Agency (NNA) for US International Securities Identification Numbers (Isins).
The Commission opened a formal investigation into S&P in January 2009 following complaints by financial groups over the fees charged by the agency's Cusip Global Services arm for US securities identifiers.
In a formal written statement of objection, the EC says: "The Commission's preliminary conclusion is that S&P is abusing this monopoly position by enforcing the payment of licence fees for the use of US Isins by (a) banks and other financial services providers in the EEA and (b) information service providers in the EEA."
The finding is based on a comparison with the charging policy of other NNAs that either do not charge any fees at all or do so only on the basis of the distribution cost as opposed to usage. According to the Commission, S&P does not incur any costs for the distribution of US Isins which are disseminated to financial services firms by third party vendors such as Thomson Reuters or Bloomberg.
S&P has eight weeks to reply to the charges which, if confirmed, will force it to cease its current business practice and possibly pay a fine.
In a statement to the Reuters news agency, S&P says: "Cusip Global Services disagrees with the European Commission's preliminary assessment We are reviewing the Commission's position and its implications for CGS's data service business and investment in Europe."
The Commission stepped up its investigation into pricing for securities codes earlier this month when it announced a probe into the fees charged by Thomson Reuters for the information group's proprietary RIC codes.
This followed an earlier decision by Bloomberg to launch a new Website where industry participants can freely search for, access and re-use identifiers developed for the Bloomberg Professional terminal and enterprise data products.