European savings banks have criticised the recently approved text of the Payment Services Directive for undermining electronic payments at the expense of hard cash.
The PSD, which was finally passed by the European Parliament earlier this week, is intended to open the market to competition and remove obstructions to the creation of an EU-wide internal market for payments. The Directive must be transposed into national laws by 1 November 2009 - almost two years after the banking industry introduces the first payment instruments dictated by the European Commission's push for a single euro payments area (Sepa).
The European Savings Banks Group (ESBG) - an international banking association representing about one third of the retail banking market in Europe - has welcomed the resolution, but warns that the lengthy delays in approving the text could yet undermine the legitimacy of the new Sepa-inspired payment instruments.
The ESBG goes on to criticise the Directive, arguing that it risks weakening public confidence in electronic payments by opening the doors to a new category of non-bank 'payment institutions'.
Moreover, the Directive strengthens obligations and increases costs for providers of electronic payment services, says ESBG, whilst omitting cash - the most expensive means of payment for society as a whole - from its scope.
Chris De Noose, chairman of the ESBG management committee, says: "An important milestone has been reached – but let us be realistic: this Directive alone will not create Sepa. Much rests on transposition and we look for evidence that other stakeholders - such as public authorities – commit to use the Sepa payment instruments."