E-money is an electronic payment product. The value is held electronically and payments using the value are made electronically.
The fact that the device may be magnetic does not stop it being an electronic device for the purpose of the definition of e-money. Thus, for example, value stored on a personal computer does not fall outside the definition merely because it is stored on the computer's magnetic hard disk. Similarly, value stored on a plastic card that uses magnetic stripe technology may also fall within the definition if the value is transferred for spending using electronic technology.
This does not mean that e-money paid for with a credit card falls outside the definition. The purchase of the e-money represents the purchase of monetary value. The fact that the purchaser is lent the funds to buy the e-money does not affect this. There are two contracts, one for the sale of e-money and one for credit.
Thus, for example, electronic value issued by an employer to its employees that can only be used to buy food and drink from the employer in its canteen is not e-money.
The document published by HM Treasury in March 2002 called "Implementation of the Electronic Money Directive: A Response to Consultation" says:
"An important issue that respondents [to HM Treasury's consultation on the implementation of the E-Money Directive] requested clarification on was whether the Directive's definition should catch account-based schemes (i.e. e-money held remote from the owner and spent at the owner's direction) as well as, for example, card-based schemes (i.e. e-money in the possession of the owner, whether stored on a personal computer or a smart card, and directly spent by them). The Treasury believes that the Directive's definition does allow for the possibility of account-based schemes being e-money. Not allowing account-based e-money schemes would effectively create a regulatory gap between the e-money and deposit-taking regimes - and a difference of treatment between schemes that pose similar regulatory risks. Rather than attempting to amend the definition in the Order (which is already expressed suitably widely), the Treasury has clarified in the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum that the definition of e-money is to be interpreted as covering account-based schemes (so long as they remain distinct from deposit-taking)."
That explanatory memorandum says:
"The Treasury believes the Directive's definition includes both e-money schemes in which value is stored on a card that is used by the bearer to make purchases, and account-based e-money schemes where value is stored in an electronic account that the user can access remotely."
Thus monetary value issued under an account-based scheme can be e-money. On the other hand, not all monetary value recorded electronically on an account will be e-money. If all such monetary value were e-money, any deposit recorded in records maintained electronically could be e-money, thereby turning most conventional bank accounts into e-money. Thus it is necessary to distinguish between an account-based e-money scheme and a conventional bank deposit.
Recital (3) to the E-Money Directive says that "electronic money can be considered an electronic surrogate for coins and banknotes, which is stored on an electronic device such as a chip card or computer memory and which is generally intended for the purpose of effecting electronic payments of limited amounts."
The European Commission published an explanatory memorandum along with its proposal for a Directive about e-money. It said that it is appropriate to emphasise that e-money does not represent a deposit. Unlike a depositor, a user does not advance funds to an issuer in order to ensure their safe keeping and handling. Neither the issuer nor the customer pursues this objective. The Commission said that the underlying contract between the customer and the issuer is that the user will get value for the e-money from those merchants that accept it and that the issuer will honour his commitment to give value.
As explained in PERG 3.3.3 G, e-money is a purely electronic product. If the monetary value is kept on an account that can be used by non-electronic means, that points towards it being a deposit. For example, an account on which cheques can be drawn is unlikely to be e-money.
If a product is designed in such a way that it is only likely to be used for making payments of limited amounts and not as a means of saving, that feature points towards it being e-money. Relevant features might include how long value is allowed to remain on the account, disincentives to keeping value on the account and the payment of interest on it.
If an account has features on it in addition to those necessary for a pure payment facility, such as an overdraft or direct debit facility, that points towards it not being e-money.
1The European Commission Services published a separate guidance note in January 2005 on the application of the E-money Directive to mobile network operators. The full text of this guidance is available at the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/bank/docs/e-money/guidance_en.pdf. The FSA will have regard to such guidance when considering whether the issue of prepaid airtime to a mobile phone user, which can be used to pay for third party goods and services, whether delivered through or outside the telephone operator's network, constitutes the regulated activity of issuing e-money.