Payments update: UK regulator’s plans and a new register for EU payments firms

Cards overtook cash as the UK’s most popular payment method in 2017. In response to ongoing technological and societal change, the UK’s Payment Systems Regulator intends to prioritise consumer outcomes in its upcoming regulatory agenda. Separately, a register compiling all e-money and payment institutions in the EU is now live. 

The PSR has published its Annual plan and budget for 2019/20. The plan provides an insight into what the regulator sees as its priorities for the coming year in response to the ongoing change in the payments industry (see our previous blog post on change in the payments sector).

Innovation

Last year a new payment system operator, Pay.UK, took over the running of the UK’s Bacs, Faster Payments and cheque payment systems. Pay.UK is now leading the creation of a new payments architecture in the UK, which should be in use by 2022. This is intended to transform the way payment systems operate and bring more opportunities for competition and innovation. As one of the bodies behind the original NPA blueprint, the PSR intends to monitor progress on this project.

The PSR is also keeping a close eye on the use of data in the payments sector. It is continuing to consider the responses from its latest discussion paper (see our previous blog post on data in payments) and an update will be published later in 2019.

Focus on consumer protection

Having in previous years focused on access to and competition within the payments sector, the PSR now plans to increase its involvement in consumer-facing issues e.g. access to cash and payment scams.

Access to cash

The PSR plans to explore the issue of access to cash. This is a topic of broader regulatory focus. For example, the Chair of the FCA recently gave a speech on the need to have a fair system for ensuring that people continue to have access to cash in areas where free-to-use ATMs are closing. The Bank of England has also welcomed the final report from the Access to Cash Review.
 
Scams

In recent years the PSR has coordinated efforts to combat authorised push payment scams. These scams involve a fraudster tricking a payer to instruct their payment service provider to send money from their account to the fraudster.

A voluntary industry code for reimbursing victims of these scams will take effect from 28 May 2019. The PSR says it will monitor how the code is implemented and its effectiveness.

The PSR has also consulted on requiring banks and other payment service providers to implement confirmation of payee service. This initiative is intended to combat scammers by requiring firms processing online payments to compare the name on the receiving account with the name entered by the payer. The PSR plans to follow up its consultation in due course.

Other ongoing areas of work
  • An interim report on the market review of card acquiring services is expected at the end of 2019. 
  • The PSR intends to issue updated directions on access to payment systems in the UK later in 2019. 
  • Brexit preparations are also ongoing, including working with the Treasury on onshoring relevant EU legislation.
What is the Payment Systems Regulator?

The PSR regulates payment systems and the participants in those systems, e.g. banks and other payment service providers, among others. It aims to promote competition, innovation and the interests of stakeholders in the sector.

New register of European payment institutions

Separately, the European Banking Authority has launched a new register of payment and e-money firms, as required by PSD2. The register includes information on: 

  • the identity of authorised payment and e-money institutions; 
  • their country of establishment and the services they provide; and 
  • information on the services those firms can provide in other EU Member States (i.e. passporting).