Payments in Sweden 2020

Are payments in Sweden efficient?

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Some competition problems on the payment market

Published: 29 October 2020

Swedish banks have long cooperated to make efficiency gains. As early as 1925, the public-owned Postgirot was formed in response to the need for more efficient mediation of payments via cashless payments by giro transfer. In the 1950s, the banks then formed their own variation in the form of Bankgirot, in which standardised paper forms facilitated the management of payments between banks. In more modern times, the Swedish banks have also collaborated over withdrawals from ATMs and purchases with debit cards, to give two examples. The banks have also established a joint system for Bank-ID and Swish, to which the largest Swedish banks are connected. In many other countries, these activities do not work anything like as smoothly. There, for example, it can be difficult or expensive to withdraw money from another bank’s ATMs.

Cooperation between banks has made it possible to utilise network effects, but the downside of this is that this concentration can make the system vulnerable and lead to a lack of competition. As regards instant payments, there is only Swish at present. As regards e-identification – an important precondition for electronic payments – Bank-ID is completely dominant at present. Government e-identification could be one way of guaranteeing that there is at least one more alternative. An inquiry into government e-identification has recently been concluded and it recommends that this be introduced.