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Payments

i Overview

The provision of payment services is a regulated activity. First, this means that providers of payment services need to obtain authorisation from the NBB (or the competent authority of the home Member State). Such authorisation is valid for the whole of the European Economic Area. In addition, the Payment Services Regulations lay down rules about the information that providers have to give to consumers and about the rights and obligations linked to the use of payment services.

The Payment Services Regulations provide for a limited list of regulated payment services:

  1. services enabling cash to be placed on a payment account and all the operations required for operating a payment account;
  2. services enabling cash withdrawals from a payment account and all the operations required for operating a payment account;
  3. the execution of payment transactions, including transfers of funds on a payment account with the user's payment service provider or with another payment service provider, including:
    • execution of direct debits, including one-off direct debits;
    • execution of payment transactions through a payment card or a similar device; and
    • execution of credit transfers, including standing orders;
  4. execution of payment transactions where the funds are covered by a credit line for a payment service user:
    • execution of direct debits, including one-off direct debits;
    • execution of payment transactions through a payment card or a similar device; and
    • execution of credit transfers, including standing orders;
  5. issuing of payment instruments or acquiring payment instruments;
  6. money remittance;
  7. payment initiation services; and
  8. account information services.

The last two services (payment initiation services and account information services) have been newly introduced by PSD2 in order to keep up with technological developments in the payments area:

  1. Payment initiation services play a part in e-commerce payments by establishing a software bridge between the website of the merchant and the online banking platform of the payer's account servicing payment service provider in order to initiate internet payments on the basis of a credit transfer. They enable the payment initiation service provider to provide comfort to a payee that the payment has been initiated in order to provide an incentive to the payee to release the goods or to deliver the service without undue delay.
  2. Account information services provide the payment service user with aggregated online information on one or more payment accounts held with one or more other payment service providers and accessed via online interfaces of the account servicing payment service provider. The payment service user is thus able to have an overall view of its financial situation immediately at any given moment.

These services raise a series of legal issues, such as consumer protection, security and liability as well as competition and data protection issues, in particular regarding protection of the payment service users' data. In order to address those issues, these services are now also included within the scope of PSD2, which allows the competent authorities to better monitor and supervise the activities.

In order to enable payment service providers to provide payment services, it is indispensable that they have the possibility to open and maintain accounts with credit institutions. Under PSD2, credit institutions are required to grant payment institutions access to their payment accounts services on an objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate basis. Such access must be sufficiently extensive as to allow payment institutions to provide payment services in an unhindered and efficient manner.

ii Recent developments

Merchants are no longer permitted to charge an additional cost for payments with a debit or a credit card. The Act of 19 July 2018 amends Book VII of the Code of Economic Law 'Payment and Credit Services' inter alia to completely ban the surcharge for the use of payment instruments (with effect from 9 August 2018). The surcharge prohibition applies, regardless of the type of payment instrument, to both in-store and online purchases, including transactions using debit cards, credit cards, payment cards issued by three-party schemes and other means of payment (e.g., non-EUR direct debits).