With Brexit ‘over and done with’, British policymakers and regulators are turning their attention to post-Brexit rules for UK businesses. Mohamed Dabo reports on new regulations about dealing with customers in the European Economic Area (EEA)
After four years of wrangling, passionate debate and soul-searching, the UK has finally left the EU, ending the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.
Britain has now entered a new period of trading with the EU, calling for measures that could impact the payments industry in numerous ways.
As far as UK-based payments firms are concerned, the changeover doesn’t affect customers living in Britain, but it does affect those living in European Union (EU) or EEA countries.
What follows is the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s post-Brexit guidance for the banking and payment sectors in the UK.
Servicing customers in the EEA
If you have customers in the EEA, you should have decided on your approach to servicing your existing contracts with them.
We expect you to have taken the steps required to make sure you act in accordance with local law and national regulators’ expectations, and that you will continue to do so in the future.
Your decisions must always be guided by what is the right outcome for your customers.
You should provide them with timely communications, so they are able to make appropriate decisions and take necessary steps. In many cases, it would be a poor outcome for the customer if you were to suddenly stop servicing them.
If you decide not to continue business for any of your customers in the EEA, you should communicate this clearly to your customers in good time and make sure that any customer funds are returned.
We expect your actions to remain consistent with the customer’s contractual rights.
We expect you to treat all of your customers fairly, keeping in mind that different categories of customer might be affected in different ways. This includes identifying whether closing accounts would cause any particular customers or classes of customer undue financial hardship.
You should consider this when deciding how much notice and how much support to give customers so they can smoothly transition to new arrangements.
This was reiterated on 9 October 2020 by Nikhil Rathi, Chief Executive of the FCA, when he wrote to Rt Hon. Mel Stride MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, about the closure of bank accounts of customers living in the EU.
Dealing with customers in the Netherlands
The Dutch National Bank (DNB) published a statement confirming that UK credit institutions cannot provide current or savings accounts to retail customers in the Netherlands following the end of the transition period.
There are specific issues that you should have considered when deciding how to implement the DNB’s overall approach set out in its statement, including in relation to:
- the exact timing of bank account closures,
- junior ISAs and child trust funds, and
- current accounts linked to mortgages.
If your firm has not yet agreed an approach on all or any of the above issues, and wants to do so, you should contact the DNB immediately.
The statement by the DNB does not relate to consumer credit products and mortgages.
The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) indicated that UK firms are able to continue servicing customers with existing credit products in the Netherlands in most circumstances, as long as they act in the best interests of their customers.
Firms may wish to contact the AFM directly if they have any questions.
If you provide cross-border payment services, you will now need to provide the name of the payer and payee, and address of the payer, when making payments between the UK and the EEA.
These requirements are set out in the Fund Transfer Regulation (FTR).
The FTR is a subset of European legislation that supports efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The requirements have been ‘onshored’ (and amended) in UK legislation. It means that payment service providers (PSPs) must include name and address information where one party is outside of the UK or Gibraltar.
Processing payments with missing information
Now that the transition period has ended, PSPs will be able to rely on our use of the temporary transitional power (TTP) until March 2022.
This will allow you to continue to comply with the requirements of the FTR as they were before 31 December 2020, and process payments initiated by EEA PSPs even if the EEA PSP hasn’t provided the full name and address details, subject to any scheme rules that might apply.
The TTP is intended to minimise disruption for firms, consumers, and other regulated entities, enabling UK firms to phase in regulatory changes made as a result of ‘onshored’ EU legislation.
In addition, and in line with Article 8 of the FTR, we expect all PSPs to have effective risk-based procedures that apply where the transfer of payments lacks the information needed on the payer or the payee.
After the end of the TTP period, if your firm is acting as a recipient PSP, you can credit a payment with missing information or make the funds available to the payee, on a risk-sensitive basis.
If your firm uses the SEPA payment schemes, you should have taken account of the European Payments Council’s Brexit reminder on 3 November 2020, which provided more information about getting ready for the end of the transition period.
We are not responsible for compliance with SEPA scheme rules and can’t comment on their operation or impact.
Remember, the UK’s TTP only impacts compliance with UK requirements. It cannot assist EEA PSPs with their compliance with EU, scheme or local requirements.
To avoid disruption to customers, when making payments, we expect you to provide the name of the payer and payee, and address of the payer, for all transactions initiated now that the transition period has ended, including SEPA direct debit transactions.
Importantly, if any payments are disrupted, we expect you to communicate promptly with any affected customers, to make them aware of the disruption and give them the opportunity to make the payment in another way.
As set out in our guidance in July 2020, if you’re a UK payment or e-money firm, you should carry out periodic due diligence reviews on your safeguarding banks, including whenever a firm might reasonably conclude that anything affecting the appointment decision has materially changed.
If your safeguarding institution is in the EEA, your firm should have reviewed its due diligence to ensure that safeguarded funds are not subject to increased risk due to any changes arising from the end of the transition period.
You should then manage the risks accordingly.
Your firm should have made sure that protections for safeguarded funds, especially in the event of insolvency, remain effective now that the transition period has ended.
Customers must be able to continue to claim and recover their funds in a timely manner, where necessary.