EU probes banks as firms gird for data-sharing law


LONDON • As the European Union (EU) prepares to usher in sweeping new data-sharing rules for finance, antitrust authorities are probing whether the banking industry is preventing rival services from accessing customers’ accounts.

EU officials carried out unannounced inspections on Oct 3 in “a few” countries amid suspicions that “companies involved and/or banking associations representing them” may have thwarted non-bank services, the European Commission said last Friday. The Dutch Banking Association and the Polish Banking Association confirmed that inspectors sought information from their organisations.

“These alleged anti-competitive practices are aimed at excluding non-bank owned providers of financial services by preventing them from gaining access to bank customers’ account data, despite the fact that the respective customers have given their consent to such access,” the commission said in its statement.

The inspections come as the bloc’s retail banking industry is being reshaped by financial technology firms offering a range of apps and services to consumers, often via their smartphones.

Beginning in January, virtually every lender in the bloc will have to provide outside firms with regular access to their customer accounts and data under a law known as the Payment Services Directive 2, or PSD2. The legislation is designed to help challenger banks, fintech startups, as well as tech giants like Apple Inc and Google, compete with traditional lenders and payment processing firms.