With mobile person-to-person money transfer services gaining traction, regulators need to act to address associated risks such as money laundering, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
In a white paper, the bank's Retail Payments Risk Forum examines the future of mobile money, already widely used in the developing world, and the risks that it poses.
On the bank's Portals and Rails blog, white paper author Cindy Merritt says risks inherent in all retail payments - money laundering, privacy and security, consumer protection, fraud, and credit and liquidity - also apply to mobile.
The emergence of more nonbank players in the market, including telecom firms and their agents along with technology vendors, may create additional risk considerations for payment regulators.
Since mobile technology-enabled payments do not require face-to-face interaction, the resulting "opaque, anonymous experience" can also create more opportunity for criminals.
"This will be increasingly important in a future where mobile retail payments will occur rapidly and across geographic borders, potentially outside the purview of traditional regulatory oversight. Payments regulators have limited expertise and experience in identifying electronic payments crime in communication systems-so the potential for abuse is a real and imminent threat that is still abstract and not well understood in this early stage of the game," says Merritt.
She says that to minimise the risks, regulators from financial services and telecoms need to ensure they communicate "with a collective eye toward the potential need to establish new regulatory concepts of electronic money regulation".
In addition, an oversight infrastructure, comprising relevant regulators needs to be set up to look at mobile payments. Meanwhile, the potentially massive remittance market means that cross-border payments could benefit from better customer data sharing.
US mobile payments services providers should be required to establish programs to mitigate money laundering risks which will need new methods for detecting and monitoring data flows.
Concludes Merritt: "The experts are right in saying that mobile adoption still low. But the rapid pace of change means that industry stakeholders, and especially regulators, need to be forward-looking and anticipate where the winds of change will blow. A rearview mirror approach to addressing emerging risks in mobile payments can be modified with proactive thinking, dialogue, and global collaboration."