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How Europeans shop and pay is 'radically changing'

With more than 700 million payment cards in use throughout the EU – and the number of smartphone owners increasing – the European Commission is seeking ways to reduce obstacles to electronic commerce.

Mobile commerce is growing across Europe
Mobile commerce is growing across Europe
Image: Daniel Law/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has highlighted the importance of secure and transparent ways of paying for goods and servces electronically – saying that the way Europeans shop and pay is “radically changing”.

More than 700 million payment cards are in use throughout the European Union and the number of smartphone owners is increasing – creating tremendous opportunities for business in the zone, the Commission said. In a bid to create more efficient, modern and safer means of payments, it has called on stakeholders and the public to suggest ways to overcome obstacles to further market integration.

In a new Green Paper assessing the current landscape of card, internet and mobile payments in Europe, the Commission has identified several areas where market integration could be improved:

  • Market access and entry for existing and new service providers
  • Payment security and data protection
  • Transparent and efficient pricing of payment services
  • Technical standardisation
  • Inter-operability between service providers

Growth and job creation

“Europe has an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of what ‘making a payment’ could mean in the future. However, we will not be able to reach this goal with the current level of market fragmentation,” Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said. “Secure, efficient, competitive and innovative electronic payments are crucial for consumers, retailers and companies to fully enjoy the benefits of the single market as well as to drive the growth of e-commerce.”

Barnier said the consultation being launched was in line with the Commission’s mandate focusing on growth and job creation and building on the achievements already made in the field of retail payments.

Vice President of the European Commission Joaquín Almunia said inefficient payments systems within the European Union unduly raise transaction costs, undermine the global competitiveness of the European economy, and limit its potential for growth. “Europe’s consumers, merchants and companies deserve payment services in tune with the 21st century: transparent, with genuine value-added and making the best use of our technologies,” he said.

Financial services giant Mastercard has welcomed the call for dialogue: “The payments industry is dynamic and competitive and we support public dialogue on the critical role electronic payments play in commerce and society. This is even more important today as Europe continues on a journey towards economic recovery,” commented Javier Perez, president of MasterCard Europe.

For more information on the Green Paper click here>

The deadline for submitting contributions to the consultation is 11 April 2012.

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