Online savings account as payment account? – Opinion of the Advocate General in ECJ proceedings

The Advocate General has given an interpretation of the term ‘payment account’ in the Opinion of 19 June 2018 in a reference for a preliminary ruling in proceedings brought by the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour against ING-Diba AG, according to which the online savings accounts offered by ING-DIBA AG are not subject to the Payment Services Directive.

The online savings account of INGDIBA AG is an account to which the consumer can make deposits and withdrawals via telebanking. However, he must always make the transfers via a so-called reference account. Although transfers are only possible between the online savings account and the reference account, this does not prevent the consumer from having access to the money on the online savings account all times. The Advocate General of the ECJ declines in an Opinion the applicability of the Payment Services Directive to online savings account.

Because the reference account must be qualified as a payment account, no need for double protection for consumers in connection with the online savings account is necessary if payments to third parties have to be made via the reference account anyway. The online savings account does not fall within the scope of the PSD2 in view of the fact that it has only limited functions, in particular it does not allow the account holder to make transfers to third parties.

In the context of the pending decision, the question must be raised as to which scope the derogation of Article 15 of the delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/389 of the European Commission actually applies. Where online savings accounts are not covered by the scope of the Payment Services Directive, this provision can only apply in very rare cases where the concerned person has two payment accounts within the meaning of the Directive.

The decision of the European Court of Justive remains to be awaited. In the majority of cases, the Court follows the proposals of the Adcocate General. Since the term ‘payment account’ is identical in the PSD2 and the PSD1, the decision of the ECJ will also be taken into account within the framework of the implementation laws for PSD2.