Transfer costs too high

BRUSSELS – Greek consumers pay particularly high commission charges to banks when transferring money compared to other Europeans, according to a European Commission survey completed last September. Data show that money transfers in Greece cost a minimum of 12 euros, which is more than twice the amount in 2001 and substantially higher than the rate in other eurozone countries. With Spain excepted, the commission banks charge for money transfers does not exceed 5 euros and is often far less. The EU’s executive body on Thursday submitted a proposal for the creation of a «Single Payments Area» by 2010. The aim is to make cross-border payments, including credit cards, as easy, cheap and secure as national payments within one member state. That is because «currently each member state has its own rules on payments, and the annual cost of making payments between these fragmented systems is 2 to 3 percent of gross domestic product,» the Commission stated. This means that using a credit or debit card or any other form of money transfer within EU member countries should not incur more charges than a similar transaction within the same country. This will apply to the entire EU and not just the eurozone, where the proposed directive will apply the rules for bank transfers to all payment methods. With the creation of the single payments area, Brussels is expecting to save between 50 and 100 billion euros per year and to bolster competition among credit institutions in favor of the consumer.