PAYMENT SYSTEMS ACT WILL GIVE CLIENTS SECURITY
Mr. Kostov, what new rules will be introduced after passing the bill on payment services and settlement systems, under draft by the BNB and the Finance Ministry?
- Let's start from there. In November 2007 an European directive on payment services was approved and it stipulates a deadline for its application in the EU member states - November 1, 2009. Therefore, all countries from the community are currently preparing the respective amendments to their laws and most of them are planning to have implemented the directive's requirements in their local legislation in the first or second quarter of 2009. The aim is to have a period of three or four months after the respective laws are passed during which businesses would be able to fulfil the requirements.
What does the directive project in fact?
- It introduces unified rules for the European Union regarding the payment services. Many directives allow the governments of individual countries to decide themselves on the specific requirement. But the directive on payment services does not allow them do that. It settles in detail the relations between users of payment services and providers of these services and regulates their rights and obligations. Another important feature is that it legitimizes the presence on the market of providers of payment services which are not banks. In our country that is already partially a fact as effective legislation stipulates licensing of firms for money transfers such as Moneygram, Western Union and others. This week the BNB has even issued the first licences to such firms.
And what are the novelties in the requirements for the various kinds of payment services?
- In fact the new law will not introduce any radical novelties as compared to the effective Payments Act. But the information which banks and other firms providing payment services should offer to their clients will be made more precise: which provider what kind of services offers, what are the terms for effecting them, what are the fees and commissions, the interest and exchange rates, the rules for communication between the participants in deals, etc. Moreover, that information should be at the disposal of clients. Firms will be obliged on requirement from their clients to inform them about the rules according which they work, at that on paper. An explicit requirement shall be introduced - if there are changes to the framework agreement for payment services the provider should inform about them the clients two months prior their introduction. These terms are shorter if the scope of services is expanded without changing the terms of the already signed contract. One of the options for choice which the European directive gives to individual countries concerns the terms within which a payment should be effected.
An important element is that they should not be longer than stipulated in the directive itself. The bill projects that payments in Bulgaria should be effected on the very day they have been ordered. For international payments in euro in the EU countries the term for payment is the day of the order plus one more day. The same holds true if the operation is connected with exchange of BG levs into euro or vice versa. When the transfer concerns exchange of BG levs or euro in Czech crones or another national currency of an EU country the term for effecting the operation could reach three days.
Presently, there are commercial companies which issue credit cards for payment of goods and services and these firms need not a licence from the BNB for their operation. Does the bill we are commenting stipulate licensing of such firms?
- Let's put it that way: the new law will give those companies an opportunity to be legitimized as payment institutions. In other words, if they want to continue their current operation they should have to be licensed. And the requirements to them will be the same as to the other companies providing payment services. At this moment I should say that the new law will treat as providers of payment services all firms engaged in e-payment services which are now licensed under the Postal Services Act. It's important to specify that the BNB won't license these companies, but they will have to observe all terms for providing payment services, stipulated in the new act.