Daily Dash: UK MPs To Investigate Whether Sanctions Are Working

March 1, 2024
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Following the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Treasury Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the efficacy of the UK’s programme of economic sanctions, while the Bank of Lithuania’s new data management programme has gone live.

Treasury Select Committee To Investigate Sanctions Effectiveness

 

“Two years on from Putin’s abhorrent invasion of Ukraine, Russia is still ploughing tens of billions into its defence budget, which poses the question: Are the West’s financial sanctions having the desired effect?” said Harriet Baldwin, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, as the influential group begins to investigate the efficacy of the UK sanctions regime. 

The committee stated it will look closely at the work of HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), which will ensure financial sanctions are properly understood, implemented and enforced in the UK.

Members of Parliament (MPs) want to understand whether it is possible to seize frozen Russian assets, and the legal constraints of such action or the global context that would be required.  

Other areas that lawmakers will probe include whether sanctions should be broadened to include any entities buying Russian oil and gas and how different UK economic sectors, such as maritime and insurance, are performing when it comes to the relevant sanctions. 

“We must not let up in our efforts to plug every possible gap [that] Putin and his cronies exploit to get around our sanctions,” said Baldwin, a former Treasury and Foreign Office minister. 

“Our committee is aiming to identify any areas within the UK’s purview we feel could be improved so that, as a country, we can be confident we’re doing our bit to deal a fatal blow to the Kremlin war chest.”

Bank of Lithuania Launches New Reporting System 

The Bank of Lithuania’s new reporting system, REGATA, has gone live.

REGATA is part of the data management programme (DAMAMA) implemented by the Bank of Lithuania, and will allow the regulator to collect reports from financial market participants and manage data more effectively. 

REGATA will allow financial market participants to optimise the reporting and data collection process by submitting data through both the portal and an application programming interface (API). 

In addition, financial market participants will be able to connect to the system through an e-government gateway, which was not possible before. 

REGATA will replace the two existing reporting systems, which the central bank says will reduce the administrative burden. 

In the first phase, banks reporting in accordance with the requirements of the European Banking Authority have been connected to the system. Insurance undertakings will be involved in the next phase, followed by representatives of other sectors. 

Mastercard Launches New Open Banking Tools For Account Opening In US

Mastercard has unveiled a new suite of open banking tools to assist in the account opening process for selected issuers in the US.

The programme is designed for issuers of consumer and small business debit cards and issuers of prepaid consumer cards.

Together, the new features will improve the digital account opening process by verifying account ownership, lowering account abandonment, reducing non-sufficient fund (NSF) returns and minimising manual entry of payment credentials.

Mastercard will provide participating US issuers who opt into the programme free access to Mastercard’s account owner verification, account detail verification and account balance check solutions.

The open banking for account opening programme is set for a full launch within the first half of 2024.

Leap Year Chaos In New Zealand As Fuel Pump Payment Systems Shut Down

New Zealand has reported widespread outages of its fuel pump payment systems due to a software glitch caused by the leap year day of February 29.

According to a report from NZ Herald, some car payment terminals were down for more than ten hours, as outages continued throughout the day.

Indoor payment terminals and app payments were not affected, but outdoor payment terminals had to wait for software to be updated.

These terminals, provided by Invenco Group, were mostly back online by the end of the day. 

“We’ve fixed it,” said Invenco CEO John Scott. “We just need to roll it out to the network now, which is our immediate focus.

“I know the question is timing — it is as soon as possible.”

Amex Launches BNPL Option

American Express has launched "Plan It", a new offering for the UK market that allows credit cardholders to pay off purchases on their statement, or a portion of their monthly bill, in instalments.

Amex members will be able to select a transaction, or an amount from their most recent statement, to put into an instalment plan for three, six or 12 months. 

“We know our Cardmembers value flexibility including in how they pay. With Plan It, our credit card customers can now pay at their own pace, continuing to earn rewards as they do so on everything from a new vacuum cleaner to their next big holiday,” said Ricky Bonham, vice president, American Express.

“As a business regulated by the FCA, we’re also delighted to be launching an instalment plan that offers transparent fees and no hidden charges.”

Customers will be charged a fixed monthly fee for their instalment plan, which will be clearly displayed at set up; however, they will not be charged interest on any balance in their instalment plan. 

Meanwhile, they will still be able to obtain rewards on any purchase in their plan, as usual.

Gambling Credit Card Ban Looms For Sweden

Sweden’s Ministry of Finance has submitted a memorandum with proposals to introduce a more comprehensive ban on using credit, including credit cards, when gambling. 

The aim of the proposal is to prevent gambling for money from leading to indebtedness. 

“Gambling for money on credit can lead to great financial difficulties,” said Niklas Wykman, finance minister. “Therefore, we are now stopping that possibility. It is not reasonable that gambling companies or gambling agents contribute to individuals taking such large risks”

The memorandum also proposes to authorise the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen) to set requirements on the content of the action plan that gambling operators must draw up to implement the ban.

The amendments are proposed to enter into force on September 1, 2024 (the authorisation) and April 1, 2025 (the credit ban).

EU Council Nods Through Instant Payments Framework

The Council of the EU has adopted the EU’s Instants Payments Regulation (IPR), which will make instant payments fully available in euro to businesses and consumers in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA). 

The European Parliament recently voted through the legislation as well, meaning that it only needs to be signed by the presidents of the European Parliament and European Council and entered into the Official Journal of the EU. 

The law will enter into force 20 days after entering the official journal, which is when the countdown to regulatory deadlines will need to begin for payment service providers. 

CAB Payments CEO To Depart After Float Flop

Bhairav Trivedi, the CEO of CAB Payments, is due to depart the company next month after the B2B cross-border payments firm’s London Stock Exchange listing backfired. 

Neeraj Kapur, who previously worked for Vanquis Banking Group, will take over, and has already joined the company. 

“The Board very much welcomes Neeraj to CAB Payments as our incoming CEO,” said Ann Cairns, company chair. “He is a seasoned finance professional and proven leader who brings a wealth of experience to this role. We are confident CAB Payments will continue to flourish and grow under his leadership, as he executes our strategy to deliver long term value for all our stakeholders."

CAB raised up to £335m through a listing on the London Stock Exchange in July 2023 at a valuation of more than £800m.

Within three months, however, its share price had fallen by half after the company revised revenue guidance sharply downwards. 

Shares currently trade at around a third of the listing price.

European Commission Publishes MiCA, DORA Delegated Acts 

The European Commission has adopted two delegated acts under the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA) and the Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) regulation. 

This includes topics such as the criteria for critical ICT providers and the criteria for defining asset referenced tokens and e-money tokens. 

The Parliament and Council now have three months to scrutinise the delegated acts, which they can extend for another three months. 

The rules will start applying after the period elapses and no objection is raised.

Google Pay Set To Close

The US version of the standalone Google Pay app will no longer be available for use starting June 4, 2024.

Google made the announcement in a blog post, and said that the planned move is to simplify its payments options. 

The company is trying to move users over to its Google Wallet product instead. 

“Google Wallet continues to be the primary place for people to securely store payment cards used for tap and pay in stores, alongside other digital items like transit cards, driver’s licenses, state IDs and more,” the blog post, written by group product manager Joris Van Mens, says. 

Google Pay has been available for Android users since 2014, and is currently used in more than 180 countries.

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