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Kroes: EU banking probe has uncovered antitrust issues

Kroes: EU banking probe has uncovered antitrust issues

A yearlong investigation into the European Union's banking sector has uncovered antitrust problems, according to the bloc's Antitrust Commissioner, Neelie Kroes.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is slated to publish its final report on the banking probe on Jan. 31.
Kroes told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting that "some segments of the market are anticompetitive."
"I'm not against profit, but there are some cases where there are firms making too much," she said, declining to elaborate.
People familiar with the study say individual companies won't face antitrust charges at this point, but the report will show credit card companies such as Visa International and MasterCard Inc. and the retail banks that issue the cards are charging too much for their services.
The commission's efforts to lower credit and bank-card fees are aimed at integrating the EU's banking sector, which remains fragmented despite the advent of the euro.
By 2010, the commission hopes to have a framework to allow businesses and customers to make cross-border electronic payments as easily and at the same cost as within their own country.
Some electronic-payment companies are monopolies, a situation the commission's report is expected to criticize in broad strokes. For instance, Belgium's Banksys _ formed as a partnership of the country's largest retail banks and now owned by French information technology company Atos Origin SA _ handles all the country's electronic payments. Banksys issues the card readers that stores and restaurants use to process credit and bank-card payments and also controls the country's automated teller machines.
Since taking office in November 2004, Kroes has initiated two main investigations: a wide-ranging look at the financial-sector and a similar study of Europe's energy market.
Earlier this month, Kroes' final report on the energy-sector probe showed the EU's gas and electricity prices are unreasonably high because of limited cross-border integration and overly dominant former state-owned monopolies.
The report didn't name-and-shame monopolies, but some sections showing market shares in specific countries pointed to companies such as Electricite de France SA and Germany's E.On AG.
When the report was published, Kroes said she is prepared to order the breakup of some monopolies if they don't change their business practices.
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Adam Cohen is a correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires in Brussels, Belgium.


Updated : 2021-05-13 12:01 GMT+08:00