The European Commission (the Commission) carried out unannounced inspections at banking associations (and possibly also individual banks) as it suspects that fintech companies may have been illegally excluded from providing financial services. Last month, the Dutch Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) already made public that it monitors such exclusion.
In its press release, the Commission confirms that it carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States. The press release does not mention these Member States explicitly. News agencies report that banking associations in the Netherlands and Poland were targeted by dawn raids.
The Commission investigates the alleged exclusion of “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”. According to the Commission, these practices may breach the cartel prohibition or the prohibition to abuse a dominant position.
In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the ACM recently announced that it would monitor such exclusions. In an article authored by four of its senior economists (pages 43-47, in Dutch), the ACM remarks that the Dutch Competition Act (Mededingingswet) remains applicable besides sector specific legislation such as the (implementation of the) new Payment Services Directive II (which obliges banks in the EU to grant third parties access to bank accounts if so requested by the customer).
In the article, ACM states that the Dutch Competition Act is a suitable instrument to act against anti-competitive behaviour, including the refusal by dominant parties to provide essential input to fintech companies.