Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2001-10-03-Speech-3-342"

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". – Mr President, financial services should be the big winner from commerce, because the sector does not have the problems of physical delivery, unlike booksellers or grocery supermarkets. A financial service, whether a savings vehicle like a pension or a mutual fund or just a simple bank account, is by its nature ethereal and intangible. Many transactions in banking and stockbrokerage are already taking place online. UNICE, the EU employers' organisation, estimates that nearly one-fifth of banking transactions in Europe are now executed through the Internet, direct dial, mobile phone, or digital television, nearly double the proportion in the US. In the Nordic countries of the Union, the overall proportion is more than a third. However, the vast majority of those transactions happen within an EU Member State. Cross-border commerce in financial services is in its infancy and it has not chased prices down to the level of the cheapest Member State. Indeed, the most recent survey suggests that bank charges vary more widely around the average than they did in the mid-80s at the beginning of the single market programme. There is a lot still to do. The commerce directive past last year was designed to encourage cross-border trade by enshrining the country-of-origin principle. This is one of the essential market-opening principles of the internal market. If harmonising rules is too difficult, at least recognise the right of any company to do business anywhere in the Union once authorised by one Member State. The key judgment was that consumers would benefit more from increased competition than they might lose from the greater difficulty of seeking legal redress from a far-flung and delinquent supplier. That is simply because the country-of-origin principle ensures the maximum amount of extra competition and extra competition is ultimately the consumer's best friend. True, the commerce directive allows exceptions still subject to national regulation of incoming services, notably insurance in unit trusts. In general, most of the liberally-minded market-opening fraternity were pleased to get it on the statute book. As its full implications have sunk in, some Member States have been quietly attempting to restrict the scope of its application and backpedal on its implications. This is the real significance of the Commission's White Paper on commerce and financial services. It is designed to clear up the bits left out of the commerce directive and the report we are debating tonight is designed to support the Commission's resolve to open up the single market; if necessary, by insisting on the provisions of the commerce directive despite the reservations of some Member States. We must maintain the liberal thrust of the commerce directive. That means also setting a clear timetable to include both insurance and advertising of unit trusts in the general country-of-origin approach. Insurance services, for example, are particularly suited to commerce provision. It also means basing any guidance from the Commission to Member States about consumer protection on real documented problems, not on imagined ones. Of course, there are real difficulties. The Commission needs to look at these difficulties carefully and attempt to set out a clear road map to allow commerce and financial services to flourish. Consumers are concerned about security, particularly with cross-border transactions. Soft law provisions, alternative dispute procedures, should be made effective so that they can deal with the vast majority of problematic cases and we have asked for a regular report on that. Some convergence of national rules on consumer contracts is clearly desirable, though this should not be used as an excuse to delay the single market. Some standard features of terrestrial banking, like applying the money-laundering provisions by looking your depositor in the eye to ask where her or his money came from, require fresh thought in an e-depositing world. It is also the case that financial services transactions are rarely entirely online without any offline elements, so we need to work as far as possible to ensure coherence. The prize for getting this framework right is very great. E-commerce and the euro can make a reality of cross-border financial services, not just for business but also for savers and the extra competition will, as it always does, bring long-lasting and real benefits. So, I urge the House to stick to the line that we have set in the past in asking for opening up of this market."@en1

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