The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has officially designated the national electronic funds transfer at point of sale (Eftpos) system as a payment system, paving the way for the imposition of standards and possible fee-capping for the network.
The Eftpos network has been designated under the Payment Systems (Regulation) Act 1998. Designation is the first step in the possible establishment of standards and/or an access regime for a payment system.
RBA says current interchange arrangements result in higher charges for cardholders compared to credit cards or scheme-based debit cards, despite the Eftpos system having relatively lower costs.
In a statement, the central banks says: "Current arrangements are not conducive to the efficiency of the overall payments system."
However, the RBA added that it would not at this stage designate the national ATM system, noting the potential for voluntary reform.
The move to regulate the eftpos network was condemned by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), which insisted the focus should instead be on opening up the electronic payments system to greater competition.
The national Eftpos network covers some 42 million debit and credit cards and processes approximately A$210 billion in transactions annually. Retailers say the RBA reforms could cost them and consumers A$170 million annually.