RBA Seeks More Resilience in Electronic Retail Payment Systems

(Bloomberg) -- The Reserve Bank of Australia is among financial regulators globally seeking to ensure payment systems that handle retail transactions are more resilient and secure as fewer people carry cash, Assistant Governor Michele Bullock says.

“The resilience of the electronic retail payment systems is becoming quite critical to the smooth functioning of economies,” Bullock, who overseas the financial system for the central bank, told a Shanghai Finance Institute conference Sunday. “With people carrying less cash, an outage in a retail payment system can mean that customers can’t undertake transactions.”

Outages that disrupt commerce are causing regulators to focus on the operational risks associated with retail payment systems, and whether the operators and the participants are meeting appropriately high standards of resilience, she said.

Regulators are trying to balance change in the payments industry as new players and new technologies emerge while at the same time ensuring systems are safe for users, Bullock said. It is important that rules don’t prevent innovation, she said.

In Australia, the central bank and other regulators also need to be mindful that new players need access to the underlying payments clearing systems, either directly or through a commercial agency agreement.

‘‘If incumbent financial institutions control access, they might seek to put up unreasonable barriers to entry,” Bullock said. “Regulators will need to be alert to potential anti-competitive conduct.”

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