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French anti-trust watchdog says banks could be marginalised by Big Tech giants

French anti-trust watchdog says banks could be marginalised by Big Tech giants

France's competition watchdog has warned of the dangers posed by the encroachment of Big Tech firms into the payments sector.

Following a year-long fintech-specific inquiry, the Autorité de la concurrence trains its guns on the looming threat posed by Big Tech giants to upset the competitive balance in financial services provision.

The anti-trust watchdog notes Big Tech companies have considerable advantages to assert: "They control ecosystems based on large communities of users, have access to large data sets and have the technical capacity to put them to good use.

"In addition, by relying, for the realisation of the payment, on the traditional banking actors and the groups of bank cards, the large platforms have the capacity to draw significant profits, without being subjected to the regulatory constraints which weigh on banking players"

The watchdog contends that data collected by Big Techs as part of their core business activities could give them a significant advantage in the payments sector. This, aligned with the technical ability to offer shortcuts to payments as part of a consumer journey and the ability to lock in consumers via control of NFC antenna's on mobile phones raise significant dangers for banks.

Notes the body: "There is thus a risk for traditional banking players of being confined in the long term to execution tasks involving significant fixed costs (regulatory charges, physical network, payment infrastructures), while being marginalised in the distribution value chain."

The Autorité also asserts that the universal banking model, which makes it possible to provide certain services deemed unprofitable if they are offered separately, such as depositing and cashing cheques and cash, could ultimately be called into question.

The watchdog falls short of offering any solution to the issues raised, althouth the European Central Bank and some of the world's biggest commercial banks have been calling for regulatory intervention to strengthen the hand of banks, based around the mantra “same activity, same risks, same supervision and regulation”.

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