Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) vide its press release on January 21, 2019 has invited comments on the Policy Paper on Authorisation of New Retail Payment Systems (“Policy Paper”). Earlier in June 26, 2018 RBI had released a Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies which aimed to minimize the concentration risk in retail payments systems and foster innovation and competition in the retail payments market. With this objective in mind RBI has placed this Policy Paper in public domain, inviting comments till February 20, 2019.
Existing retail payment services and operators in India
RBI is the regulator for payment and settlements systems under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 and it ensures that the payment systems operate in a secure and efficient manner with regard to banks as well as non-bank entities. Banks have been the traditional gateway to payment systems but with the demand for varied payment systems and technological changes, non-bank entities have been granted access to the payment systems. These non-bank entities have been competing with the banks by providing retail electronic payment services. As a result, RBI has been issuing guidelines for various payment systems and granting the non-bank entities to setup and operate payment systems. It is to be noted that RBI had granted permission to eighty- nine (89) non-bank entities to act as payment system operators.
Analysis of the current landscape w.r.t retail payment system operators
Though there are many payment systems such as card networks, Prepaid instrument issuers (PPIs), ATM networks, etc. there are only a handful of payment operators in India. As a result of which, there are concerns around concentration and competition and its impact on the current financial of the country. Therefore there are a number of issues which need attention. The issues for discussion are as follows:
- a single operator having multiple and varied retail payment systems versus diversification across multiple operators;
- payments systems managed by a single operator such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) ,etc. versus multiple systems with similar product features being offered by multiple operators;
- availability of a window for licensing operators of a payment system on-tap; and
- reviewing the criteria of licensing to foster innovation and competition and to broad base potential applicants.
RBI has classified the payment systems as follows:
|Serial Number.||Basis of Classification||Particulars|
|1.||Number of operators||1. Single operator for a single or multiple retail payments systems
· NPCI- National Financial Switch (NFS), IMPS, BHIM Aadhaar Pay, National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC), etc.
2. Multiple operators for similar payment services- to name a few:
· ATM networks- 5
· Card Payment Networks- 5
· Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers- 48 non-banks and 60 banks
|2.||Type of payment services||Classification on the payment service based on the end user as under:
1. Fund transfer and merchant payments systems- IMPS, UPI, PPI, Aadhaar based payments, etc.
2. Card based payments- Card networks, ATM networks
3. Bulk and repetitive payments, utility payments- NACH, BBPS
4. Toll collection- NETC
5. MSME receivables’ financing- TReDs
NPCI has become pivotal to the operation of many critical retails payments systems in the country. By October 2018, NPCI was accounting for almost 48% of the retail electronic payment transactions (excluding paper) in volume to 15% of the value of the retail electronic payment transactions.
The advantages of having concentrated system operations with few entities are as follows: (a) leads to standardisation with uniform and tested payment systems; (b) less pressure on capital and infrastructure; and (c) a unity of approach by the regulators. Whereas the disadvantages of having a single operator are as follows: (a) absence of redundancy and fall-back arrangements may impact continued availability; (b) inadequate competition may lead to complacency with no upgradation and improvement in the product; and (c) increase of the prices at which the services are being offered with reduction in quality of service.
The Policy Paper also discusses a multi-pronged action for a more appropriate level of retail payment systems and operators.
The pros of having multiple entities which provide similar payment services would be to increase the competition. However, this may require additional investments, creation of a suitable infrastructure, and this may be achieved over phases. Also, the feature of adding inter-operability in the new payment systems would incur huge costs.
Open and keep-on-tap window for making applications
There can be an open and keep-on-tap window for making applications by all the payment systems in place. This window would permit the receipt of applications for all payment systems and would prescribe for a specific “point of arrival” metric which would allow the entities who are unable to achieve the desired capacity and scale to have a defined-time line exit.
Liberal entry norms
The Policy calls for a liberal entry norm which would require reviewing the entry point capital (net worth) requirement and an analysis of the capability potential of the entities. Finally the Policy also recommends that all payment systems should have a physical presence in the country, an impeccable track record, and shall conform to the best overall standards including those pertaining to customer service and efficiency.
The Policy also makes it clear that there should be an alignment of regulatory framework to encourage enhanced participation of both bank and non-bank entities.
Further, Annexure III of this Policy Paper lays down the authorisation criteria for non-bank payment system operators which discusses the review possibility of the financials in terms of the reduction or revision of the net worth for payment systems such as WLAOs, BBPOUs, and TReDS.