On 4 October 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgment in Bundeskammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte v ING-DiBa Direktbank Austria Niederlassung der ING-DiBa AG (Case C 191/17) (4 October 2018), ruling on the interpretation of “payment account” under the Payment Services Directive (2007/64/EC) (PSD). Whilst PSD has been repealed and replaced by the second Payment Services Directive ((EU) 2015/2366) (PSD2)), PSD2 retains the same definition of “payment account”.

Request for preliminary ruling

The judgement concerned a request for a preliminary ruling from the Austrian Supreme Court on whether a savings account, which allowed (without notice or any particular involvement of the bank) for sums to be deposited into and withdrawn from a reference account (i.e. current account) by way of telebanking, fell within the definition of a “payment account” under PSD. In such case, the completion of the payment transaction requires an intermediate step, which involves the transfer of funds between the savings account and the user’s current account.

The ECJ ruling

The ECJ looked at the legislative context of PSD and in particular the Payment Accounts Directive (Directive 2014/92/EU) (PAD), which adopts an almost identical definition of “payment account”. PAD does not cover savings accounts, in general, because they do not constitute payment accounts, unless they can be used for day-to-day payment transactions. The determining criterion in this respect is not the term used, but the ability to perform daily payment transactions from such an account.

According to the ECJ, a defining characteristic of a “payment account” under PAD is the ability to execute payment transactions, including credit transfers, to a third party and receive such transactions carried out by a third party.

Consequently, if it is not possible to make payment transactions from an account directly, but instead an intermediary account is necessary, then the account is not a “payment account” under PAD.

Therefore, according to the ECJ, the correct interpretation of PSD is that a savings account is not a “payment account”, when it allows for sums deposited without notice and from which payment and withdrawal transactions may be made solely by way of a current account.