Basic bank account
MEPs want legislative proposal by early 2013
By Sophie Petitjean | Friday 01 June 2012
The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) is urging the EU executive to present legislation to guarantee universal access to basic banking services. In an own-initiative report, adopted on 31 May, MEPs note that the 2011 recommendations on the matter have not led to guaranteeing access for all to a low-cost payment account for daily transactions. The resolution, adopted with 36 votes for and two against, invites the Commission to present a legislative proposal by January 2013. “The EU has already wasted too much time. If it had lived up to its initial ambitions, we would already have had an initiative on the table last summer. Instead of that, the Commission has given in to pressure from the banking lobby and merely published recommendations,” said rapporteur Jürgen Klute (GUE-NGL, Germany).
Currently, 7% of EU consumers, ie 30 million people, do not have access to basic banking services, seven million of whom – according to estimates – were rejected by payment services providers. Therefore, on 18 July 2011, the Commission presented Recommendation 2011/442/EU to the member states in order to make the right for any European citizen to open a basic bank account recognised. Yet, MEPs consider that these recommendations had a weak impact, while vast changes occurred in countries that had implemented national legislation. For instance, the number of citizens who did not have access to banking services dropped, respectively, by 75% and 30% in Belgium and France as well as in Finland and in Denmark, where 100% of homees now have access to banking services.
MEPs therefore recommend EU legislation in order to make a no-frills basic system available to everyone. According to MEPs, the basic payment account should be accessible to all, including homeless people, those on very low incomes, students, people with no credit record and expatriate workers. Moreover, the basic bank account should be the cheapest option to allow a person to carry out any essential payment transaction, such as receiving income or benefits, paying bills or taxes, buying goods and services, making cash withdrawals and printing account statements. Lastly, this system should not allow banks to refuse to grant such an account on grounds such as low income, type of employment, credit history or level of indebtedness, for example. Most importantly, they must not be allowed to make the basic account conditional on the purchase of other products or services.
The vote in plenary session is scheduled for mid-July.
The Commission has given in to pressure from the banking lobby