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Australia central bank mulls lowering e-payments charge

Australia central bank mulls lowering e-payments charge

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is considering reducing the charges applied to certain payments due to the high number of people opting for contactless methods in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Assistant governor Michelle Bullock said that the RBA is currently conducting a review of retail payments regulation and will consider reducing the cost of electronic payments for both merchants and consumers given the current reluctance to use cash.

She said that ATM withdrawals were down by 30% from March to April and down by more than 40% from a year earlier. However merchants have been hit by higher charges when debut card payments are automatically routed through certain international payment schemes. 

Bullock said that the RBA's review will look to improve the transparency of payment schemes offered to merchants. "

"So far, the bank has not mandated that acquirers explicitly offer least-cost routing to all their merchants but it remains an option that will be considered in the review," she said. "If market forces are not generating competition to lower the cost of debit card payments, we may need to consider lowering the benchmarks that serve as a cap on average interchange fees."

Bullock also said that she expects action to be taken "more quickly now" because of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as an ongpoing effort to consoldiate ATM networks given that the decreasing use of cash has bene going on for some time. 

Backi in Novemberr 2018, the RBA governor at the time, Tim Lowe, referred to cash as a "niche payment instrument". 

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