Australia Considers Reforming Regulations for Digital Wallets

The Australian government is mulling new laws intended to tighten the regulation of digital payment services. Despite rapid growth, digital wallet services from Apple Pay, Google Pay and China’s WeChat Pay are not designated “payment systems” in Australia, which means they are not as yet governed by the country’s regulatory system. The move comes on the heels of a government-commissioned report addressing whether the payments system had kept pace with advances in technology and changes in consumer demand.

“Ultimately, if we do nothing to reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley alone that determines the future of our payments system, a critical piece of our economic infrastructure,” Australia treasurer Josh Frydenberg wrote in an opinion piece published in Australia’s Financial Review newspaper and reported by Reuters.

Australia’s Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which supports the country’s central banks’ stability through international cooperation, earlier this month called on global financial agencies to take on the influence of Big Tech and vast data controlled by groups including Google, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba.

The report recommends the government be given the authority to designate tech companies payment providers and begin regulating them. Currently, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is the entity authorized to designate payment services providers. Frydenberg says he will “carefully consider” that and other recommendations.

The report also recommends government team with industry to create “a strategic plan for the wider payments ecosystem and that a single, integrated licensing framework for payment systems be developed,” according to CNBC.

The RBA reports that in 2019 digital wallet payments grew to 8 percent of in-person card transactions, up from 2 percent in 2016.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CommBank) says digital wallet usage exploded in the 12 months spanning the coronavirus pandemic to March 2021, when the number of transactions rose from 36 million to 68 million and total value more than doubled from $1 billion to $2.1 billion Australian dollars, according to Startup Daily.

The Australian news site further notes that CommBank “processes around 40 percent of total card and digital wallet transactions in Australia” and “the average dollar value of a digital wallet transaction has risen from $41 to $44 (credit) and $26 to $29 (debit) over that time.”

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