European consumer interest group BEUC has waded into the screen-scraping debate, urging banking authorities to ban the practice in favour of the creation of a harmonised interface for customer data sharing.
The consumer lobby has come down firmly in favour of the European Banking Authority's rebuke of the EU Commission's proposed amendment to the Regulatory Technical Standards for PSD2 aimed at overturning a policy proposal to ban screen scraping in favour of the use of bank APIs.
Fintech firms have reacted angrily to the EBA's riposte to the Commission, accusing it of displaying unfair bias by protecting the interests of banks.
Ralf Ohlhausen, business development director PPRO Group and a member of the 69-strong Future of European Fintech Alliance, says: “The EBA’s approach would disable existing, well-working payment initiation as well as account information services, which are very popular and widely used amongst consumers. It would undermine the most used business model of the European fintech industry, one of the world’s biggest growth industries and one of the few areas in which EU tech companies have a lead over their Silicon Valley competitors.“
BEUC counters that the continuation of screen scraping would raise security concerns by providing third parties with access to data which may not be needed for the services provided.
The organisation is nonetheless sympathetic to the plight of fintech firms.
"We recognise that the proposal as it stands could create technological chaos," states BEUC. "If screen scraping is forbidden and every bank in the EU is free to develop its own interface for fintechs, it could be potentially lead to thousands of different interfaces. This would be unmanageable to fintechs and would unfairly favour the incumbent banks."
Instead BEUC is calling on the EBA to redraft the rules to mandate the development of a unique, harmonised API to which all banks and fintech firms should adhere.
"This would allow fintechs to enter the market and increase competition in the field of payments which consumers warmly welcome," the statement concludes.
BEUC's position was made clear at a presentation to the European Parliament on Tuesday morning. It was joined by banking lobby group's in opposing the EU amendment.
In a joint statement, the European Association of Co-operative Bank and the European Banking Federation, derided the Commission's fall back proposition, arguing that it “increases cost, fragmentation compromising the development of APIs, provides a competitive disadvantage to new entrants, a lack of improved technical reliability,
incompatibility with PSD2’s security requirements, supervisory constraints, and unclear consumer understanding and consent”.