Following last year's bungled and abandoned attempt to scrap cheques, the bank-run UK Payments Council is set to be stripped of its powers by the government.
Funded by its member banks, the self-regulatory Payments Council was established in 2007 to set the strategy for UK payments. In 2009 it ran into trouble after members voted to ditch cheques within nine years in a move greeted with howls of protest from charities and other interest groups.
Eventually, under pressure from the Treasury Select Committee and government, the Council capitulated but this was not enough to escape further scrutiny and a consultation has now been published outlining plans for a new body called the Payments Strategy Board (PSB).
Taking over responsibility for UK payments strategy, the PSB would be overseen by the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and end the current self-regulatory regime.
Funded through an FCA levy, it would be composed of industry representatives, people from outside the business such as consumer bodies and independent directors. The government says that, if reformed, the Council could still have a role as the body through which banks respond to recommendations from the new PSB.
Arguing for the new set up, the consultation argues that it would deliver a "fresh start", making the industry more responsive to users' demands while improving transparency and still ensuring that banks are responsible for projects.
However, while the preferred Treasury option, the PSB is just one of three possible plans in the consultation - a significantly altered Payments Council could keep its powers or a brand new regulator established.
Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, says: "We need a payments system that responds to the needs of customers and is not just run for the banks. Today's package of measures is another step by the Government to make sure that the financial sector provides an effective and competitive service to the real economy."
Payments Council chief Adrian Kamellard welcomed the consultation and insisted that steps have already been taken to improve the organisation's operation, adding that "whatever the consultation outcome, the Payments Council is already uniquely placed to listen and respond to the needs of customers and businesses who rely on payments in their everyday lives."
You can read the full consultation here. Interested parties have until 10 October to respond:Download the document now 430.5 kb (PDF File)