UK regulator says supply of indirect access to payment systems improving

Source: Payment Systems Regulator

Work to open up access to payment systems is generating increasingly positive results according to the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), which today published the final conclusions of its market review into competition in the supply of indirect access to payment systems.

The ‘Indirect Access Market Review’ is part of the regulator’s wider work to help banks, building societies and other payment service providers (PSPs) to access the payment systems which enable funds to be transferred between people or institutions. This increased access will help drive competition in the banking and payments sector and, in turn, will give more options to consumers.

Today’s report found that, although there are still some concerns around the supply of indirect access, the PSR expects the impact of its work alongside on-going and anticipated market developments, to address many of these issues.

In light of this, the PSR has decided not to take any further action at this point, but to continue to monitor and support these developments as part of its on-going access programme. The regulator will report on progress early next year in its annual ‘access and governance report’.(1)

Hannah Nixon, Managing Director, Payments Systems Regulator, said:  ‘This market review is part of our broader strategy to support increased access to payments systems. The more we can open up access, the more challenger banks and building societies will be able to come to market and compete on a level playing field. This in turn will give more options to consumers.

‘Having fair and open access goes hand in hand with having a vibrant and competitive economy. So it’s essential that this market works well. As this report shows, progress has been good, and feedback on the interim report has been broadly supportive of our approach. However, we need to ensure that we maintain momentum and that the specific concerns we have identified are addressed by upcoming market developments.’

The PSR is already seeing positive progress in the supply of indirect access, in particular with some banks planning to become indirect access providers within the next nine months.

In addition, the Bank of England recently announced that it will be extending settlement account access to non-bank PSPs, and the Faster Payments Scheme (FPS) has announced that five companies have now gained accreditation to provide direct technical access to FPS via a new aggregator model.

Hannah Nixon, added:  ‘Within the last few months we have witnessed a number of developments that have the potential to further improve access. But while we are happy with progress in the industry, our approach is not without its conditions. We remain committed to improving access, and will continue to watch market developments to see that our concerns are addressed. If not, we will review our current approach and take any action necessary.’

Draft guidance on PSR’s powers to require access to be granted
Alongside today’s report, the PSR has also published a consultation on how it proposes to approach its powers to require a payment system operator or an indirect access provider to grant access (or to vary the terms of existing access) to a payment system. The PSR has the power to do this if it receives an application from parties who are in dispute over access arrangements.

The PSR is inviting feedback on its draft guidance, which it hopes will provide clarity to access providers and access seekers about the PSR’s role in, and approach to, handling disputes about access to payment systems and about fees and charges relating to the use of services provided by payment systems. 

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