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Monday, 27 October 2014

Of Primordial Soup, New Payment Services And #PSD2

Source: Shirtigo
Figuring out the impact of the proposed changes to European payments law (PSD2), is like watching primordial soup, with new types of regulated creature emerging all over the place. Previous posts have considered the impact on loyalty schemes and technical service providers, while this post looks at the new “payment initiation” and “account information” services. The scope of these new services could introduce many new software and service providers to the regulated world, increasing costs as well as potentially limiting competition and innovation.

A “payment initiation service” is one where you can ask the service provider to pay your energy bill, for example, or make batch payments to staff and suppliers, using one or more payment methods provided by other service providers. It is conceivable that an e-commerce checkout feature, for example, might also qualify. Member States must ensure that payers have the right to use a payment initiation service in relation to payment accounts that are accessible online. A payment initiation service provider must not handle the payer’s funds in connection with the provision of the payment initiation service.

An “account information service” is one that allows a single view of all your transactions on one or more payment accounts held at one or more payment providers. Account information service providers will be exempt from certain authorisation, information and contractual requirements, but will be treated as payment institutions - so they will be allowed to passport to other EEA states, for instance.

PSD2 assumes that both these new services will provided by “third party” payment service providers, i.e. those who do not also offer payment accounts or handle funds themselves. Let's call them “TPPs” for short, as opposed to firms that provide or maintain payment accounts, which is the job of “account servicing payment service providers” or “ASPs”.

TPPs will need to become authorised or registered financial institutions, or become appointed as agents of authorised firms. Those initiating payments will need at least €50,000 of working capital and (along with account information service providers) will have to hold professional indemnity insurance. TPPs will also have to provide information about themselves to customers, as well as have quite a lengthy contract with each of them (unless they are exempt account information service providers). If a payment goes wrong, the TPP who initiated the payment must be prepared to prove that nothing went wrong in its own systems when it sent the payment to the ASP. The TPP will also have to give information about the payment to the intended recipient(s) and meet certain security requirements (see my article for the SCL).

Regardless of the customer benefits, it seems certain that these requirements will add to the cost of providing payment initiation and account information services to consumers and small businesses.

The regulations would also seem likely to limit competition and innovation in the event that firms structure their services to avoid regulatory overhead.

Specifically, it's not clear whether firms wishing to avoid increased costs could qualify for the technical service provider exemption by supplying their services directly to ASPs instead of customers. But even if that were possible, or if ASPs were prepared to appoint TPPs as their agents, it's likely that each ASP would only involve the services of a limited number of TPPs, and would add its own margin to their charges in any event. In other words, the number of potential TPPs and related services could just become a function of the number (and type) of existing ASPs.

So it seems the adverse consequences of regulating these services may well outweigh any benefits.


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