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EC investigates banking group after antitrust e-payments complaint

The European Commission (EC) is investigating whether emerging banking standards for e-payments are anti-competitive.

The European Commission (EC) is investigating whether emerging banking standards for e-payments are anti-competitive.

Representing the European banking industry, the European Payments Council (EPC) - including UK members Barclays, Citibank and HSBC - has been developing standards for online payments. Following a complaint, the EC will investigate whether or not such standards are preventing new payment providers entering the e-payments market.

"In principle, standards promote interoperability and competition, but we need to ensure that the standardisation process does not unnecessarily restrict opportunities for non-participants," said Joaquín Almunia, the EC's vice-president for competition policy, in a statement.

The exclusion of competitors in the online payments market could lead to higher prices for web merchants and consumers, according to the statement.

Mobile operator Three recently complained to the EC, claiming a joint venture between Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone UK is anti-competitive.

In June 2011, the three UK operators formed the joint venture to encourage more retailers and banks to adopt mobile payment technologies using near-field communications (NFC).

The initiative aims to provide an open marketplace and start-up investment to make it easier for retailers and banks to roll out NFC-enabled mobile payment products and services across multiple mobile networks. This is part of a drive to turn credit, debit and retailer loyalty cards into a SIM-based NFC-enabled mobile wallet.

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