Out-Law News 1 min. read

Future of payments examined in Australia

Alternatives to cash, including digital currencies, could be explored more closely in Australia under plans to modernise the payments system in the country.

The tentative proposal was set out by the Australian Payments Council (APC), an industry-led body that engages with an arm of Australia's central bank to help shape national policy on payments.

The APC has opened a consultation aimed at updating its "strategic vision for the payments system" in Australia. It said the "pace of change" calls for a "new strategic agenda".

The APC's paper highlighted a "shift to digital payments" in recent years, with continued growth in the use of cards to carry out transactions, as well as increasing popularity in contactless and mobile payments too, and said that has coincided with a fall in the use of cash and cheques.

While the APC's paper does not make any firm commitments regarding the future direction of payments in Australia, it does provide an insight into the APC's "initial thoughts" on potential areas of focus under the planned updated vision.

One potential output is that the APC could "examine alternatives to cash that fulfil a similar role in the payments system". It flagged an International Monetary Fund paper which previously explored a central bank-backed digital currency, which the APC said had suggested that the option could work in some countries depending on the circumstances.

"Potential benefits of a central bank digital currency may include mimicking the benefits of cash in privacy and resilience," the APC said.

Other work that the APC could get involved in in future includes examining the "privacy implications in a world of autonomous payments", and establishing "common data standards" to ensure payments can be "easily integrated to platforms and user experiences outside of existing banking channels".

"As real-time payment systems come online globally, there may be scope to explore greater levels of interoperability, for example with countries in the South Pacific," the APC said. "Concurrently, global platforms are becoming a significant force. Social media platforms are ubiquitous throughout the world and seamless payment experiences through social media are becoming more common."

The APC's paper also charted the progress of existing work that has been undertaken that will impact the payments market in Australia. This includes work to implement 'open banking' in the country, which is to be phased in from July this year. A new "digital identity trust framework" is also likely to be finalised by the middle of 2019, it said.

The consultation is open until 22 February. Feedback received will help "ensure the payments system continues to meet the changing needs of Australians", the APC said.

Chairman of the APC Robert Milliner said. "We are renewing our strategic vision for the payments system and are looking for views on how we can collaborate to navigate the rapidly changing landscape."

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