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UK government creates payments watchdog to boost competition

10 October 2013  |  15011 views  |  4 Parliament Big ben London

The UK government is setting up a utilities-style payments regulator in a bid to make it easier and cheaper for new entrants to take on the high street banks.

The regulator, which will sit under the Financial Conduct Authority when it assumes it new powers in late 2014, is charged with increasing competition in a payments sector which sees 17.5 billion non-cash transactions a year.

The watchdog will have the power to order changes to how systems such as Faster Payments and Bacs operate and to make it cheaper for small banks to access these systems - currently the big banks own them and charge for access to key services.

It will also be able to investigate market players and impose fines and other sanctions when the rules are broken.

The Treasury decided to end the self-regulatory approach that banks currently enjoy, through the Payments Council, in the wake of 2011's bungled and abandoned attempt to scrap cheques.

Last summer a consultation was published floating three options: a significantly altered Payments Council, the creation of a new body called the Payments Strategy Board (PSB), or a brand new regulator.

Having initially favoured the middle-way PSB option, the government changed its mind after consultation and is now preparing to go for the full regulator, which will be set up via amendments to the Banking Reform Bill.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid, says: "The reforms we are announcing today will encourage innovation, ensuring that real benefits are passed onto each and every user of financial services."

Comments: (4)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 10 October, 2013, 13:34

This is my personal view and does not reflect that of my company or any individual team:

The statement is an oxymoron in that controls and regulation help tame and control rather than boost :-) . However, we will need to understand how the high street banks will be at a disadvantage. The high street banks obviously have more than just payment services to offer.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 10 October, 2013, 14:51

Potential IP infringement at work here: "The reforms we are announcing today will encourage innovation, ensuring that real benefits are passed onto each and every user of financial services." That phrase is copyrighted in the 2004 SEPA Roadmap.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 10 October, 2013, 15:10

Farewell to the Payments Council and their own Payments Roadmap, which will now be consigned to the dustbin of history. Possibly the result of appointing two successive CEOs who knew nothing at all about payments but who knew (not) how to tread the corridors of Whitehall: one from the Cabinet Office and the one before a former DG of the Association of Independent Financial Advisers and now DG of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Neither of them ever seen an MT103 in their life, hence repeated directional as well as communicational errors.

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 16 October, 2013, 14:12

Regulators Ban things..... and enforce bans....   so the new regulator will need to Ban a lot of existing Ban's on creativity and competition..... lets see how good the new regulator is - at banning things... maybe then we will see some clear blue water for new payment methods to go fish!

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