The European Commission has responded to a parliamentary question by Alfred Sant MEP in which he called for explanations on what is being done to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic is not used by banks to reduce services for consumers.
The Executive Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis wrote to Alfred Sant to say that the Commission has observed the regular decrease of the number of bank branches and of automated teller machines and will be closely monitoring the evolution of retail banking services in the EU.
Mr Dombrovskis acknowledged that the reductions of banking services may indeed have an impact on the access to basic banking services by EU citizens, in particular those less familiar with digital banking.
In a parliamentary question tabled at the European Parliament, Alfred Sant had called on the European Commission to explain how it is acting to ensure that the pandemic is not used by banks to permanently reduce services to the detriment of lower income consumers and pensioners in particular.
In its reply, the Commission said it does not possess any element allowing it to share the view that the pandemic could be used as a pretext to further reduce the access to retail banking services but it could however anticipate some transformations such as the acceleration of digital payments at the expense of cash. The Commission will follow the impact this may have, going forward, on financial inclusion. Alfred Sant also asked the Commission whether it is considering initiating a system of conditionality for state aid to banks whereby banks receiving such aid are obliged to retain their level of retail banking. In its answer, the Commission stated that it is not considering initiating such conditionality for the granting of state aid to banks.