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A new regulatory framework for payment systems in the UK

Today the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), as established under the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (FSBRA), published a policy statement on how the payment systems industry will be regulated from 1 April 2015.

Under FSBRA the PSR has been provided with a range of competition and regulatory powers in order to achieve its three main statutory objectives;

  • Promotion of effective competition in the markets for payment systems and payment services in the interests of service-users
  • Promotion of the development of innovation in payment systems and payment services in the interests of service–users
  • Ensuring that payment systems are operated and developed in a way that considers and promotes the interests of service-users

The policy statement published today outlines the PSR’s proposed regulatory approach and final directions. Importantly it also includes draft Terms of Reference for their market reviews into ownership and competition of payments infrastructure and into the supply of indirect access to payment systems, as well as details on the forthcoming policy work programme. This policy work programme initially encompasses strategy setting projects, payment market projects and pipeline projects.

Initially, six interbank payment systems and two card payment systems have been designated by HM Treasury for regulation. The remit of the PSR extends to all ‘participants’ involved in these regulated payment systems. This has been interpreted to include the operators managing those systems, the payment service providers using those systems, and the infrastructure providers.

The eight payment services designated for regulation are:

  • Bacs
  • Cheque and Credit (C&C)
  • CHAPS
  • Faster Payments Scheme (FPS)
  • LINK
  • Northern Ireland Cheque Clearing (NICC)
  • MasterCard
  • Visa Europe

The PSR has already outlined a willingness to further use their wide ranging powers should the measures outlined today prove insufficient to advance their objectives. These include extensive enforcement powers, information gathering powers and investigative powers to deal with any compliance failures by the regulated payment systems. Under these enforcement processes the PSR can publish a finding of a compliance failure, impose a penalty or seek a court injunction where appropriate.  

The PSR will work with other authorities to ensure that their activities are consistent with, and do not duplicate, those of other bodies involved in UK financial regulation and the enforcement of competition law. A Memorandum of Understanding has already been agreed with the FCA, PRA and the Bank of England. In relation to competition matters, the PSR will work closely with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the European Commission and the FCA.

Within the policy statement the PSR has outlined some of their key concerns with the industry as it currently operates. These centre on three key areas;

  • Governance and decision making
  • Pace of Innovation in the industry
  • Competitiveness and the ease of access for new participants.

It is worth noting that despite expressing concern in relation to the pace of innovation in the industry, the PSR is broadly positive as to the innovative activity in the provision of new payment services to the UK public. They specifically welcome the introduction of digital wallets, the growth of contactless devices and payments, new developments such as Paym and firms such as PayPal.

For more information, please contact Paul Hinton.

The policy statement can be found here.

Annexes to the policy statement can be found here.