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Financing of the EU economy - Priorities for building a single retail financial market

A common electronic ID – Gateway to the Digital Single Market

By Dye John - Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Western Union

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The European Commission is rightly emphasising the Single Market for Retail Financial Services. If the EU is to appeal to its citizens, individuals and businesses will need to experience the benefits of a cross-border market place in their daily lives.

Western Union has been at the forefront of providing smooth, safe and efficient payment services globally for more than 150 years. One could argue that for our company the Single Market is already a reality. So why are we still talking about this subject?

The Commission recently launched its Green Paper on Retail Financial Services. This consultation is closely linked to the Commission’s wider aspiration of completing the Digital Single Market. The rise of online and mobile technologies, combined with changing consumer behaviours is making it easier for citizens to buy and sell goods and services across borders. In many instances it is no longer obvious where the parties to a transaction reside. Digitalisation is a big if not the most significant enabler of the Single Market.

What does this mean for the payments sector? It is essential that consumers and businesses have access to more and different payment options. This will stimulate competition to the benefit of consumers and businesses.

Increased competition means that there needs to be interoperability between payment solutions. Electronic identification is a good example. Payments services are only as effective as their ability to prevent fraud, fight money laundering and root out terrorism financing and other criminal activity.

The EU should go further and develop a common framework for e-identification.

Western Union would like to see the EU develop the technology and common standards for e-identification. We welcome the existing EU legislation on e-signatures as a first step. The EU should go further and develop a common framework for e-identification available in all EU Member States that is open to different technological solutions and does not create a bias for one payment solution over another, such as for example once-off or non-bank account based payments.