In the northern parts of Europe, such as in Scandinavia, France, Germany, and the three Benelux countries including Belgium, I can see a steady progression toward a cashless society in all facets of everyday life. First of all, tickets for most public transportation require credit cards or bank cards to make purchases (for instance, in the Netherlands, bus drivers don't carry cash, so in order to pay, passengers have their transit cards scanned, or pay with a bank card or other card), and in supermarkets, many people pay with bank cards or credit cards. With regard to mobile payment systems using smartphones, which have been increasingly popular in Japan in recent years, there aren't many supported devices in Europe, and this is one area where Japan actually leads Europe. Though in Europe, banks are generally the issuers of credit cards and debit cards, and it seems possible to assume that some of the common services provided by banks are themselves becoming cashless. However, there are still many small and medium-sized shops and establishments in provincial towns where cash is the only accepted form of payment. When I see many people lining up at ATMs (right before the Christmas holiday was especially remarkably busy), I feel that the state of progression in everyday life toward a cashless society is about at the same level as in Japan.
On the other hand, in countries like Italy, cash is still king. Italy has experienced many financial crises over the years, putting banking facilities at great risk every time they occur. This has led many people in Italy to distrust banks as safe places to deposit money, compared to other regions. However, in Spain, where it was thought that cashless payments would never take hold, the IT industry developed rapidly alongside the changes in the country's industrial structure following the financial crises of the 2000s, facilitating the rapid progress toward becoming a cashless society.
This state of affairs in Europe is often mentioned in Japan as a case study of high rates of cashless payments due to the widespread use of bank card (debit card) payments, but it does not mean that innovation in payment services is progressing smoothly in all aspects. The Payment Services Directive 2 (referred to as PSD2 below), which was enacted in 2015 as a way to encourage innovation in banking in the EU, was supposed to be implemented in law in each country by 2018. However, the entire implementation process has been significantly delayed. As described above, each country is in a different state of progress while financial services are diversifying, and new banking services emerge that were not initially anticipated. The attitude toward handling of these changes differ among financial supervisory agencies of each country and each financial institution. As awareness regarding personal information issues, as exemplified by the GDPR, there is a growing sense of resistance among customers toward banking APIs that are used by banks and other financial institutions to disclose bank account information. Some relevant authorities have even expressed their concerns that even if they move ahead with legislation, the details of the laws will differ greatly among countries. These types of rebounding trends are impacting the proliferation of new payment services in no small way.
On the other hand, however, there has been a movement toward developing new standards and approaches related to regulation involving new emerging services.