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European officials target bank associations over efforts to block fintech firms

The European Commission said its officials conducted surprise inspections at the offices of bank trade bodies in "a few" member states Oct. 3 to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices by lenders against fintech rivals.

The Financial Times reported Oct. 8 that EC officials visited banking associations in the Netherlands and Poland, citing people familiar with the matter. The EC did not name the countries but the Dutch association acknowledged to the FT that the commission had visited its offices and said it was cooperating with the authorities.

The EC said it had "concerns" the banks and the trade bodies had blocked challenger groups seeking access to customer account information in cases where users had given their consent. The inspections came shortly before the January 2018 introduction of the second European payment services directive, which will require traditional banks to grant third-party service providers access to customer data and accounts.

The commission noted that inspections were preliminary and did not mean that the companies or the associations representing them were guilty of anticompetitive behavior.