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You may think payments regulation is a rather dull subject, but it isn’t. Angus McFayden from Pinsent Masons spoke about the changes to the regulation of the UK payment sector at the Westminster e-Forum on “Digital Payments in the UK” [PDF] that I spoke at last November. As I remember him pointing out, with characteristic accuracy, these changes are not going to drive down costs (there is nothing in the UK National Payment “Plan” about this anyway), which I would have thought to have been a reasonable goal. So what are they going to do? Well, they are supposed to improve competition while simultaneously ensuring stability and so forth.

How? You may remember that HMT (Her Majesty’s Treasury, the UK’s Ministry of Finance, essentially) had a public consultation on the options for UK regulation a while back, and…

So given it was what the government said they wanted, want the respondents said they wanted and, most importantly, what I said that I wanted… the government has decided to choose an alternative path and it now says it will create a new payment regulator

[From You searched for response to consultation – Tomorrow’s Transactions]

So we are going to have a new payments regulator, and this will improve competition and ensure stability. Angus explained that this regulator, expected to be operational in April 2015, will have a number of powers and that one of them will be to mandate access to payment systems. This means for schemes, rather than direct access to accounts, and is laudable. If more organisations have access, there will be more competition and therefore, hopefully, reduced costs. So far, so not particularly interesting.

However, under proposed reforms to PSD2 things might move a little further and, somewhere downstream, there may be changes following on from the European Commission’s consultation on third-party access to the bank account, known as “XS2A”. In this scenario, I would be able to grant a licensed third party (a Payments Institution or bank, essentially) access to my bank account so that they could get the balance, look at transactions and perhaps even trigger FPS payments. Now this is really interesting. The potential for new services here is obvious and by removing an intermediary layer there should be a reductions in costs. But, and this is a big but as far as I am concerned, without the right identity infrastructure, the right security and the right compliance regime, this could be another Chernobyl.

I imagine that this is the sort of thing that will be discussed in London in February at the forthcoming “Payments Intensive”, where you can listen to Consult Hyperion’s Anthony Pickup and Adrian Kamellard, the Chief Executive of the Payments Council, amongst others, talking about payments regulation in more detail.

Payments Intensive 2014: Future Development and Regulation, will bring together key figures from business, legal and regulatory backgrounds, to discuss the most pressing issues in the payments sector today.

[From Payments Intensive 2014: Future Development and Regulation | Cecile Park Conferences]

The magnificent group of gentlepersons and scholars at Cecile Park have very kindly given Tomorrow’s Transactions a complementary delegate place at this event to dispose of as we please, so we’re having one of our blog competitions. If you are going to be in London on 6th February and would like to attend the Payments Intensive, then all you have to do is be the first person to comment on this post with the name of the British record label that has just released a version of Bach’s Wurttemberg Sonatas performed by the Iranian-American harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahani, and you will be given entirely free a place at the event (worth an astonishing THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE of your English pounds).

As always, the judge’s decision is arbitrary and capricious.


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