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2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 261 E/87


(31 May 2001)

Since the Working Party in question was set up in 1998 on the initiative of the then Directorate General
XXII of the European Commission (now DG ‘Education and Culture’) the Honourable Member is advised to
address his question to the Commission.

(2001/C 261 E/091) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0316/01

by Andrew Duff (ELDR) to the Commission

(13 February 2001)

Subject: The single market

Some of my constituents have been experiencing problems in using payment cards outside the UK,
apparently because different systems are in use across the Union.

Is the Commission satisfied with the norms that exist for electronic payment cards? Do different systems
exist within the Union? Is the Commission satisfied that those different systems are truly compatible?

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

(30 March 2001)

In each of the Member States there is a variety of payment cards in use. The payment industry has
answered to the needs of the market in very different ways. Some payment cards can be used only
domestically, others internationally.

With regard to those destined for international use (e.g. MasterCard, Eurocard, Visa, Amex, Diners …) they
are generally accepted where their label is displayed. Whether or not to accept such cards is a decision for
the merchant and the merchant’s bank. Although some of the international cards are widely accepted,
there is no obligation to do so.

The Commission is aware of the existence of different electronic payment card systems and initiatives have
been taken in order to improve the situation. The objective is to reach an adequate level of interoperability
between different electronic payment systems.

It should be noted that standardisation is a voluntary and market-led process. Thus, the use of common
standards and specifications strongly depends on the willingness of the different market players to co-
operate in this domain.

The Commission is promoting payment systems interoperability in different ways:

 by supporting standardisation initiatives or similar developments (eEurope smart card charter),

 by funding research projects e.g. cross-border electronic purse,

 by urging the banking industry to develop a single payment area (Communication on retail payment
in the internal market (1)).

(1) COM(2000) 36 final.