By the beginning of 2018, the EU countries have to implement the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD 2). The aim of PSD 2 is to make electronic payment transactions safer, more convenient and more cost-effective. What changes are to be expected? Will Switzerland also be affected?

What is PSD 2 about?

An essential element of PSD 2 is the obligation for banks to open their application programming interfaces (APIs). Through these APIs, third-party service providers, if the customer agrees, are supposed to have access to account information or to trigger transfers from this account. In return, an authorization requirement for payment release services and a registration obligation for account information services is introduced. To ensure safety, the PSD 2 and the conversion standards set high technical requirements. Various working groups are currently working on the development of API standards. Individual working groups such as the UK Open Bank Project already provide demo versions.

Does the PSD 2 apply in Switzerland?

PSD 2 is an EU Directive. It therefore does not apply directly in Switzerland. Presently, there is no evidence that Swiss banks would have to pay attention to the PSD 2 because of their participation in the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA). However, in the EU-based subsidiaries of Swiss banks, the respective national implementation regulations must be observed.

PSD 2 has an indirect effect on Swiss companies by the fact that EU payment service providers must also observe the PSD 2 (i) if only one payment service provider has the seat in the EU and (ii) if currencies other than the euro are involved.

Should the Swiss legislator act?

The expected upheavals in the EU's payment system have raised the question of whether the Swiss legislature should act. According to the authors, the Swiss legislature should first wait for the experience gained in the EU. In particular, the technical requirements are high. How the PSD 2 is actually implemented and what consequences this will have for the practice in the EU is therefore not yet foreseeable. It is a vast experiment, the outcome of which is open.

What does this mean for the Swiss market participants?

Even if the PSD 2 does not apply in Switzerland, in effect, the changes in the EU will have an impact on Switzerland. On the one hand, some Swiss banks must implement the PSD 2 for their subsidiaries in the EU. For these banks, the question is whether it is more efficient to offer certain solutions in Switzerland. On the other hand, the pressure from third-party service providers and customers will increase, to introduce comparable new services also in Switzerland; the PSD 2 should be a success.

The opening of the API as a strategic option

The Spanish bank BBVA is an example of how today, and thus without the PSD 2, a bank can strategically use the opening up of the API. It has developed a platform through which third parties can access BBVA's API and test their new products.

In the absence of legal regulations, contractual safeguards are required

As long as there are no PSD 2 analogous regulations in Switzerland, each bank is free to decide whether and how to make their API accessible to third parties. If APIs are made accessi-ble, the bank must ensure compliance with adequate safety requirements.

Insofar as their compliance cannot be guaranteed by the bank itself, it is recommended that the most important requirements be agreed with the third party.