EC OKs Identrus online payments network

The European Commission gave its blessing Tuesday to Identrus, a global network offering a secure e-commerce payments platform.

Identrus was created by a group of U.S. and European banks in 1999. It uses electronic-signatures technology to identify parties involved in an online transaction, leaving the participants to offer their own authentication services.

The 21 participants include Dutch bank ABN-AMRO NV, Chase Manhattan Corp., Bank of America Corp., Barclays Bank PLC in the United Kingdom and Deutsche Bank AG in Germany.

“The Commission has concluded that the Identrus system will not lead to any appreciable restriction of competition,” the Commission said in a statement.

The system will enable participating banks to operate “as individual and competing certification authorities for the purposes of secure e-commerce transactions,” it said.

Each participant can offer its own independently created applications built upon the Identrus infrastructure, in competition with the other participating banks. It is also free to set the prices it charges to customers for authentication services, the Commission concluded, after examining Identrus for over two years.

It said that Identrus would face competitive checks from competing systems being developed by financial industry ventures, postal authorities and telecommunication carriers among others.

The green light from the regulators comes a month after Identrus signed up three big name banks: Wells Fargo & Co., Sanwa Bank of Japan and Royal Bank of Scotland.

“We’ll help drive the Identrus initiative forward and enable our corporate and middle-market customers to engage in e-commerce with trading partners with complete confidence,” said David J. Zuercher, executive vice president, Wells Fargo International Group.

“Identrus facilitates the delivery of a broad range of secure B-to-B Internet applications, providing members with the opportunity to eliminate cumbersome paper-based processes,” said Andy Ross, head of E-commerce and Internet for The Royal Bank of Scotland.

His bank is also planning to use Identrus to provide secure e-mail, government filings and electronic payments.

The Commission is the executive body of the European Union. It can be reached at