Stakeholder views on how to best serve consumers' interests largely diverged during a public hearing on the Commission's Green Paper on Retail Financial Services on 19 September in Brussels.
Presenting the findings of the consultation, Internal Market and Services Director General Jörgen Holmquist said that there was a "general consensus that retail financial services will remain local", with cross-border services representing merely 1% of activities. Nevertheless, he argued: "We want to make life easier for consumers."
Holmquist said that diverging consumer protection rules were seen as a major obstacle, and underlined the need for harmonisation. Consumer groups, however, oppose maximum harmonisation, as they fear that this could lead to an overall reduction of protection levels.
According to the Commission, the consultation showed that there is a consensus on the importance of consumer education and literacy, but the hearing revealed that there are different views on how this should be achieved. Industry representatives argued that it was more important to present targeted information than present consumers with piles of paper.