In July 2000 (!), when I was still working as a senior policy analyst at the Dutch central bank, I wrote an article on the relevance of e-money rules for mobile operators, concluding:
The adapted infrastructures and billing engines from mobile phone network operators may fall under the future local legal implementation of the EMI-directive and (for the billing part of it) under local law with respect to payment instrument. It appears to be useful, therefore, for mobile phone operators and regulators to further consider and discuss the potential legal consequences of the current technical developments.
Regulators may benefit from this discussion and be better able to decide on the best local implementation of the EMI-directive. The mobile phone network operators may benefit by better understanding the supervisory consequences of some of the technical choices to be made.
Today, May 10, 2004 (more than 2 years after the obliged implementation date for the emi-directive), the European Commission releases a consultation paper on the treatment of mobile operators under the E-money Directive. Their conclusion is similar to mine:
According to Member States experts and the Commission services, pre-paid mobile phone cards are likely to be a form of electronic money when they are used to buy and pay third party products or services.
Assuming that it will take some 2-4 years to sort this stuff out, we will eventually have a level playing field for e-money players in 2008.
Better late than never ... (?)