EU households remain under pressure

Consumer spending down year-on-year but rate of contraction slows according to the Visa Europe: EU Consumer Spending Barometer

London, 19 December 2012 – Consumer spending in the European Union was -1.6% lower in the third quarter (Q3, July - September) of 2012 compared to the same period last year. The contraction is the second consecutive quarter of negative growth. This follows the second quarter (Q2) when spending was down -2.4% compared to Q2 2011. The figures indicate that the rate of decline in consumer spending has slowed across the combined 27 Member States.

The Visa Europe: EU Consumer Spending Barometer uses adjusted Visa Europe card transaction data to provide a robust indicator of total consumer expenditure across all payment methods. With €1 in every €7 in Europe spent on a Visa card, the Barometer gives a uniquely comprehensive insight into the health of consumer spending.

Despite the overall drop in consumer spending, the Barometer data indicate that in the third quarter 16 countries recorded a year-on-year increase in spending compared to 12 in the second quarter. This includes Germany, the largest economy in the EU, where spending was up 0.8% in Q3 following growth of 0.4% in Q2.

Declines were recorded, however, in the other largest economies in the EU, with spending down in Spain (-5.3%), Italy (-4.6%) and the UK (-3.3%). France saw a smaller decline in consumption in Q3, with spending down -0.6% compared to a year ago.

Eastern Europe continued to record spending growth in Q3 2012. Slovenia and Lithuania reported double digit growth rates, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Estonia also noted marked rates of expansion.

The most significant drops in spending were recorded in Portugal, Greece and Ireland, countries that have been at the centre of the Eurozone debt crisis.

The general downturn in household consumption that has been evident in Visa Europe’s EU Consumer Spending Barometer over the past year has largely matched a similar trend in EU GDP data from Eurostat. Preliminary figures for Q3 2012 showed GDP falling by -0.4% on the year.

Philip Symes, Chief Financial Officer at Visa Europe said: “Our EU Consumer Barometer shows that the rate of contraction eased in the third quarter, but the fact remains that spending across the EU continued to fall on an annual basis. The Barometer is clearly showing that households across the EU are responding to the effects of subdued economic growth or in some cases recession, by reducing spending. We wouldn't be surprised if this continues into the fourth quarter before recovering slowly in 2013."

About the Visa Europe’s EU Consumer Spending Barometer

Over one in every seven euros spent in the EU is on a Visa card, with nearly 80% of that spending on debit cards. This means the Barometer provides a uniquely comprehensive and timely insight into the health of consumer spending in the European Union.

Visa Europe’s EU Consumer Spending Barometer is based on spending on all cards issued by Visa – debit, credit and prepaid. Markit has developed the Barometer by creating a model which adjusts the raw Visa transaction data for a number of factors.

First, the data are deflated by changes in the number of Visa cards issued to account for the expansion of Visa’s business. Secondly, an adjustment is made to offset changing consumer preference for card usage. This is based on an assessment of the trends in cash withdrawals and point-of-sale (POS) transactions on Visa cards. Finally, to account for inflation, the data are deflated by changes in the consumer price index to provide an indicator of real changes in household expenditure.

The Visa data have enjoyed a strong positive relationship with equivalent official numbers in recent years. The Visa data cover a much wider range of sectors than just retail as cards are increasingly used for payments such as utility and tax bills.

For the full Visa Europe: EU Consumer Spending Barometer please visit:

Note to editors:

  • Q1 2012 has been revised upwards to 0.0% indicating consumer spending was flat compared against the same period in 2011

About Visa Europe

In Europe, there are 460 million Visa debit, credit and commercial cards. In the 12 months ending June 2012 those cards were used to make purchases and cash withdrawals to the value of €1.8 trillion. 14% of consumer spending at the point of sale in Europe is with a Visa card, and almost 80% of that is on Visa debit cards.

Visa Europe is independent of global Visa Inc., with an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual licence in Europe, while both companies operate to ensure global interoperability. As a dedicated European payment system Visa Europe is able to respond quickly to the specific market needs of European banks and their customers - cardholders and retailers - and to meet the European Commission’s objective to create a true internal market for payments.

Visa enjoys unsurpassed acceptance around the world. In addition, Visa/PLUS is one of the world’s largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in over 200 countries.

For more information, visit