COMPETITION COUNCIL CLOSES INVESTIGATION INTO SWEDBANK  ACTIONS

The Competition Council closed the investigation into the compliance of Swedbank actions with the requirements of the Law on Competition upon Swedbank submitting written commitments suitable for the elimination of the alleged competition law breach and creating preconditions to avoid it in the future.

During the investigation the Council examined whether Swedbank abused its dominant position by including certain provisions into Bank Link service agreements concluded with undertakings providing online payment collection services to e-shops. Such provisions were seen as restricting the aforementioned undertakings‘ ability to offer new online payment collection services – payment initiation services – to Swedbank customers.

Payment initiation services provide an alternative solution to traditional Bank Link services used for collecting online payments.  These new services enable payment collection service providers to initiate payments directly from the customer’s bank account via software “bridge” without concluding agreements with the banks. Suspecting that Swedbank restricted payment collection service providers’ ability to offer an alternative online payment collection solution and thus abused its dominant position, the Council initiated the investigation.

During the investigation it was found that in Bank Link service agreement concluded with payment collection service provider Paysera Swedbank included certain provisions restricting Paysera‘s ability to offer online payment initiation services to Swedbank customers. The investigation also revealed that similar provisions were included into Bank Link service agreements concluded with other payment collection services providers. This might have restricted the ability of such undertakings to operate on the market, and prevented e-shops from choosing alternative and possibly cheaper online payment collection services.

In response to the aforementioned competition concerns, Swedbank submitted written commitments to amend the provisions of Bank Link service agreements and refrain from performing any actions which could breach the Law on Competition in the future.

In order to assess the suitability and appropriateness of these commitments, the Council published them on its website for public consultations and sent them to the interested parties. Taking into account the comments and proposals received during the public consultations, Swedbank amended the proposed commitments.

According to the Law on Competition, the Council shall adopt a resolution to close the investigation if the actions of an undertaking did not cause a significant damage to the interests protected by this law and the undertaking suspected of the breach of the law voluntarily terminated the actions and submitted to the Council a written commitment not to perform such actions or perform actions eliminating the suspected breach or creating preconditions to avoid it in the future.

As it was established that Swedbank voluntarily terminated the allegedly anti-competitive actions, and committed to properly and fully eliminate the suspected breach, and since Swedbank‘s actions did not cause significant damage to the interests protected by the Law on Competition, the Council decided to close the investigation subject to commitments by Swedbank.

The rules for the provision of payment initiation services are established in the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which came into force on 13 January 2018. However, the detailed requirements relating to technical and security aspects when providing payment initiation services are defined in Regulatory Technical Standarts (RTS), implementing PSD2. RTS will become applicable on 14 September 2019. According to the Council, the commitments undertaken by Swedbank will provide more clarity for undertakings wanting to provide payment initiation services to Swedbank customers until RTS become applicable.

Closing an investigation subject to commitments is a tool that allows to effectively solve competition concerns in a market. In such cases the main duty of the Council is to make sure that the proposed commitments are suitable and appropriate to eliminate the identified competition concerns.

Jurgita Brėskytė, Head of Dominant Undertakings and Mergers Supervision Division