Daily Dash: New Zealand Regulator Urges Banks To 'Pick Up The Pace' On A2A Payments

February 23, 2024
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New Zealand’s commerce commissioner has warned that regulatory powers may be used if it does not see progress on account-to-account payments. Meanwhile, Russia has shut down a high-risk payments firm on money laundering grounds.

New Zealand Regulator Urges Banks To 'Pick Up The Pace' On A2A Payments

The head of New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has written an open letter to retail payments system participants asking them to expedite the implementation of account-to-account (A2A) payments.

John Small, chair of the commission, said the regulator has observed a lack of innovation in A2A payments, despite their potential to drive competition and reduce costs for consumers.

The commission wants to see A2A payments being used for both online and in-person transactions, pointing to examples overseas where QR codes and mobile apps have facilitated this shift.

“For smaller businesses who are subject to higher fees to accept card-based payments, this is particularly appealing,” he said.

“It means they could enjoy lower payment costs and reduce — or even remove — the need to surcharge to recoup fees — a win-win for both them and their customers.”

Next month, the commission will open a consultation on whether to use the powers of the Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to ensure that A2A payments innovation is implemented in a “timely manner”.

Russia Shuts Down High-Risk Payments Firm Due to AML Concerns

The Central Bank of the Russian Federation has announced that it has revoked the licence of Qiwi Bank, a major payment service provider. 

This has reportedly led to disruptions in services for transferring money abroad and a 50 percent plunge in the company’s stock value. 

The central bank took action due to Qiwi's involvement in high-risk operations and non-compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation. 

Russia's Deposit Insurance Agency has meanwhile announced that compensation payments are to begin on March 6, with Qiwi expected to have sufficient assets to cover the funds in uninsured e-wallets.

Money Laundering Bank Taken Down In Pan-European Investigation

National authorities in Latvia, Germany, France, Italy and Malta have carried out more than 100 searches to take down a suspected money laundering network with ties to a Maltese financial institution (FI).

Four suspects were detained following the searches, which were backed by both the Eurojust and Europol agencies. Multiple witnesses were also interviewed in Latvia, Germany, Estonia and Malta.

According to Eurojust, the Maltese FI has laundered at least €4.5m in criminal proceeds since the end of 2015, and the total sum of laundered money could amount to tens of millions of euros.

The FI and the organised crime group behind it offered money laundering services via a network of fake enterprises and individuals who were registered directors, said Eurojust, without performing any real business activities.

The group operated mainly from Riga and Berlin, leading investigations by the Latvian authorities in 2021, after they noticed unusual money transfers from Latvia to the Maltese FI.

Qatar Confirms Launch Date For New Instant Payments Network

The Central Bank of Qatar (CBQ) has confirmed that it will launch a new instant payments system known as Fawran next month.

Fawran will allow users to make instant account-to-account transfers 24/7. It will also allow payers and payees to use alternative identifiers, such as mobile phone numbers, in place of bank account details.

The CBQ said the launch of Farwan is part of the central bank’s 3rd Financial Sector Strategy, an initiative launched in November last year to develop and modernise Qatar’s financial service sector.

Revolut Becomes First UK FI To Offer Downloadable SIM Cards

Revolut has become the first UK financial institution (FI) to launch an eSIM, a fully downloadable SIM card that can be used to avoid roaming charges when travelling abroad.

The Revolut eSIM can be used in more than 100 countries and can be used simultaneously alongside a physical SIM.

Customers on Revolut’s Ultra plan now have exclusive access to 3GB of eSIM data per month, which can be used globally as part of their standard subscription package.

Connecting the eSIM also enables customers to use the Revolut app without using their mobile data allowance.

So if a Revolut customer lands in a country and does not have data access, they can still access the Revolut app and use all of its features, including topping up their data if they run out.

The cost of using mobile data overseas has increased in recent years, Revolut said. Most UK mobile networks no longer allow their users to "roam like at home" in the EU, and data charges for the rest of the world are almost always outside the standard benefits.

Hong Kong Releases New Crypto Custody Guidance

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has released new guidance on the provision of custodial services for digital assets by authorised institutions (AIs).

The guidance contains high-level directions on various aspects of the provision of custodial services, including expected standards for due diligence, product and risk disclosure and risk management.

The guidance also contains directions on operational aspects of providing custodial services, including ongoing due diligence, outsourcing and segregation of client funds.

"To ensure that such client digital assets held by AIs in custody are adequately safeguarded and that the risks involved are properly managed, the HKMA considers it necessary to provide guidance on AIs’ provision of digital asset custodial services," the authority said.

European Commission Opens Infringement Proceedings Against TikTok

The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA).

According to the commission, TikTok may have violated provisions related to the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers and risk management of addictive design and harmful content.

"The safety and well-being of online users in Europe is crucial," said Margrethe Vestager, the commission's competition chief.

"TikTok needs to take a close look at the services they offer and carefully consider the risks that they pose to their users, young as well as old.

"The commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation without prejudice to the outcome.”

So far the commission's probe has consisted of a preliminary investigation and an analysis of a risk assessment report submitted by TikTok in September 2023.

TikTok's replies to the commission's formal requests for information on illegal content, protection of minors and data access have also been considered. 

UAE, Gibraltar Seek Grey List Removal As FATF Week Kicks Off

Jurisdictions including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Gibraltar are likely to be removed from the greylist during this week’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Week in Paris.

FATF Week started on Monday (February 19) and will conclude with plenary meetings that take place between February 21 and 23.

Delegates representing more than 200 members of the Global Network and observer organisations will participate in the working group and plenary meetings.

This includes the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the World Bank, INTERPOL and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

Delegates will discuss key issues including the impact of the rapid development of cross-border payment technologies and guidance to help countries with risk-based implementation of beneficial ownership and transparency rules. 

GoFundMe Shuts Down Tornado Cash Legal Defence Fund

Campaigners who are raising money on behalf of the indicted founders of Tornado Cash, the crypto mixing service, have had their GoFundMe account shut down.

The Free Pertsev and Storm campaign, named after Alexey Pertsev and Roman Storm, announced last week that GoFundMe had shut down their account based on Term 22 of GoFundMe’s terms of service.

This allows GoFundMe to “restrict” or “inhibit” use of the service to prevent “any activity” that it deems “unacceptable or objectionable”.

As covered by Vixio, Storm was arrested in August last year and was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act.

He was also charged with conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Revolut Launches AI Feature To Protect Customers From Card Scams

Revolut has launched a new AI feature that aims to detect if a customer is being targeted by a card scam and alert the customer before they part with their money 

Since initial testing began, Revolut has seen a 30 percent reduction in fraud losses resulting from card scams where money has been sent to a perceived investment opportunity.

Built internally by Revolut’s financial crime team, the new feature can determine if there is a high likelihood that the customer is making a card payment as part of a scam and, if so, decline the payment.

The customer is then protected from performing other similar payments and sent through a scam intervention flow in-app.

During this phase, the customer needs to provide additional information about the transaction they were attempting and can also talk to a Revolut fraud specialist, who will help determine whether they are being scammed.

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