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The Icelandic Competition Authority („ICA“) has authorised the major commercial banks in Iceland to establish and operate a joint bank cash centre.

12/13/2017

The ICA has agreed to grant exemption for the establishment and operation of a joint cash centre subject to certain conditions. The parties to the joint operation, Arion Banki, Íslandsbanki and Landsbanki, have committed to adhere to conditions set out in a settlement that the ICA has made with the banks. 

The tasks of cash centres consist mainly of receiving banknotes and coins from branches, ATMs and other operations of banks and savings banks, counting and storing cash, preserving it, distributing it back to branches, ATMs, other operational sites and, if appropriate, for storage at the Central Bank. 

The key rationale behind the establishment and operation of a joint cash centre is that it can lead to considerable cost savings compared with the situation where each bank separately operates its own cash centre. Also, a joint cash centre could be better equipped to meet security requirements. 

The conditions of the settlement are, inter alia, designed to ensure that the joint cash centre is operated independently, to ensure equal access for all competent parties to the services of the cash centre, to ensure that the pricing of the services of the joint cash centre is solely based on the purpose of maintaining its business, to prevent that the co-operation of the joint cash centre compromises competition between its owners (the commercial banks) in the market for retail banking and to ensure that the cost savings resulting from this co-operation are maintained into the future. 

The exemption granted by the ICA to the banks is based on Article 15 under the Icelandic Competition Act (which is comparable to Article 53(3) of the EEA Agreement). Thus, the ICA has the power to grant an exemption from the Act‘s prohibition rule regarding restrictive collusion subject to four cumulative conditions that all need to be fulfilled. The ICA can also, based on a provision in Article 15, grant its exemption subject to conditions designed to establish that the four cumulative conditions are fulfilled. That has been done in this case.

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