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In early February, the European Commission (EC) published a communication on its strategy to create an integrated market in retail financial services by 2005, in accordance with its 1998 Financial Services Action Plan. The reception given to the strategy was muted, particularly in comparison with the Final Report by the Lamfalussy Committee of ‘Wise Men’ on the regulation of European securities markets, published at about the same time. Such a response was unfortunate. The communication is a key statement of the EC’s developing vision of how the legal and regulatory framework must be structured to break down barriers to the provision of cross-border e-financial services in Europe. If this vision is realised, and regulatory neutrality between technologies achieved and maintained, it will change the regulation of traditional, as well as online, financial services.

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