Creating a pan-European retail market in car insurance and pensions largely hinges on whether 500 million consumers will go online to widen their choice of products, the EU’s executive body said on Thursday.
The European Commission in a consultation document sets out 33 questions on what can be done to create a cross-border market in car insurance, pensions and other common financial products whose prices vary widely across the 28-country bloc.
“Digitalization should in principle foster cross-border activity, without requiring firms to establish themselves in other member states,” the document said.
As information about services become available to all, pushing down prices and improving product comparability, the importance of physical location shrinks, it added.
The share of consumers who have bought banking products from another EU state is less than 3 percent for credit cards, current accounts and mortgages, the document said.
Cross-border services accounted for just 3 percent of gross insurance premiums in 2011 and 2012.
Building a single market will need to overcome the distrust many consumers have since the financial crisis and misconduct fines at banks.
Uncertainty over consumer protection in other countries, different tax rules and language are also barriers to cross-border purchases, the document added.
Products like life and health insurance are often “geo-blocked” or only available if you live in the country of purchase and are not “portable” or valid in other EU states.
Firms face barriers to offering services cross-border without a branch office, and the document suggests allowing “distance” verification of a customer’s identity, such as post offices vouching for documents.
New insurance against a customer in another country defaulting on a home loan could also encourage cross-border sales of mortgages.
The EU executive also asks if there would be any benefits from a standardized, pan-European life insurance product.
It will hold a conference in early 2016 and publish an action plan in the summer.