New European debit-card payment scheme to threaten Visa and MasterCard?

14 Jul 2009

A group comprising some major French and German banks is due to be created in October and will forge ahead with plans to create a European debit-card payment scheme in an effort to challenge the duopoly that is Visa and MasterCard.

As the migration to Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)-compliant payment scheme progresses, to maximise the efficiency of electronic payments Europe-wide, French and German banks, including Deutsche Bank, Société Générale and BNP Paribas, will be working on plans to establish a European debit-card payment scheme later this year.

Although this plan is only at concept stage, the aim is for 31 European countries to join the group, which will be called Monnet – taking its name from the French economist, Jean Monnet, who strived for a united Europe.

Speaking at a conference in Frankfurt last Wednesday, Deutsche Bank chief operating officer Hermann-Josef Lamberti said: “We all knew it was important to get the Germans and the French to agree. When the rest of Europe sees that these two can agree, then the result has a chance to evolve into a solid European system.”

According to Ouliana Vlasova, cards and payments analyst at Datamonitor, the onslaught of SEPA has been threatening the viability of domestic payment schemes for many years, with banks across the region implementing SEPA migration plans since early 2008, as set out in the SEPA Cards Framework (SCF).

“The SCF states that issuers may choose from multiple schemes to pursue different options, including evolving domestic systems to be SCF-compliant, which means that co-branding domestic cards with international schemes is sufficient. In addition, the European Payment Council encourages issuers to consider new schemes and initiatives to compete with existing systems, although this is not mandatory,” Vlasova explained.

However, as the majority of domestic cards are co-branded with their networks, Visa and MasterCard may, as of yet, appear unperturbed by the prospect of a new European scheme.

By Carmel Doyle