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Part of a building with the word “bank” above the door © istock/ilbusca

New measures would give all Europeans a legal right to a basic bank account anywhere in the EU – and make switching to another provider easier.

Now that electronic payments are increasingly replacing cash, everyone needs a bank account.

Yet, around 25 million Europeans who would like to have an account currently do not have one. Some 2.5 million who applied for one have been rejected for various reasons – which include being considered too poor.

Those without an account find it difficult or impossible to receive a wage or social support payments, transfer money or make purchases requiring a debit or credit card.

The Commission has tried to help, for example by encouraging banks to voluntarily ease requirements. However, not much has changed in the 2 years since.

Binding measures are now needed to ensure everyone who wants an account can have one. The Commission’s proposals would:

  • allow all Europeans, whatever their financial situation, to open a basic payment account anywhere in the EU – they would be able to perform essential banking operations
  • make it easier for consumers to compare fees for payment accounts – they would get clear information on all charges from their providers, and each country would have an independent website comparing fees
  • establish a simple and quick way for account holders to switch to another bank or provider anywhere in the EU.

The measures would help people choose the bank account most suited to their needs in any EU country. They would also benefit from a more competitive market, possibly lowering fees.

Banks would also benefit from less red tape and more consistent rules across the EU, helping them to expand operations.

EU countries would be able to set national rules, such as whether payment accounts with basic features should be offered to consumers for free or for a reasonable fee. Not all banks would have to provide basic payment accounts to everyone – governments may ask just one bank to offer such accounts.

Next steps

EU leaders will now consider the proposals, together with the European Parliament. They could come into effect in 2014, if accepted.

More on financial services in the EU

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