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French banks have agreed to scrap interbank fees for direct debits and payments, among the highest in Europe, in the latest in a series of actions brought against them by the country’s competition authority.
The authority said the deal should generate “substantial savings” for bank customers such as energy suppliers, telecoms operators and insurers who would now be able to negotiate a cut in the fees they pay for such payments – which are habitually higher than what the banks charge each other. Consumers were also likely to benefit as the reductions were passed on.
“Almost €300m a year will be reinjected into the economy as a result,” the Autorité de la Concurrence said.
Under the agreement, the banks will halve fees charged between them for direct debits, online payments, interbank payment orders and international transfers from September this year and will abolish the fees altogether from September 2013.
Current direct debit fees of €12.2 cents rank third highest after Italy and Portugal among six EU countries in which such interbank fees are still levied.
The deal, struck following a complaint from the food trade and ADUMPE, the European association for users of payment systems, followed a similar settlement last year for a reduction in interbank fees for credit card transactions. In 2010, 11 French banks were fined a total of €385m after the authority found they had acted in concert to fix interbank cheque fees, which were then scrapped.
The banks involved in the settlement included the Bank of France, the central bank, the big three French operators BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, and the French operations of HSBC.