Payments Council Looks into Richer Payments Data

The Payments Council said Friday that it is exploring how options for richer data may feed into delivering a world class payments system for the UK.

Richer data could make it possible to provide additional reference information with an electronic payment. This could help businesses better reconcile payments and improve cash management, and help customers know where they stand by giving them greater clarity on their finances.

As the largest single user of the UK’s payment systems, the government is supportive of the industry exploring plans to incorporate richer data into payment systems. The payment industry is in discussion with a number of government departments on this subject, including: the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC); and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) with Cabinet Office leading on commercial arrangements.

DWP has already identified that richer data could help it more quickly reconcile information it receives in administering the benefits system. It could also offer benefits to individual claimants, making their reporting of financial data to DWP easier.

The announcement comes as the new Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) is preparing to become fully operational on 1 April 2015. The PSR has objectives to ensure that the operation of payment systems promotes competition, innovation and the interests of service-users.

Should there prove to be a feasible and commercial proposal for richer data, the industry will consider bringing this forward for review by the PSR’s proposed Payments Strategy Forum as part of its initial work programme for a world class payment system.

“Richer data offers some exciting avenues for innovation, and it is right that government and the industry works together to explore the case for developing these,” said Andrea Leadsom, Economic Secretary to the Treasury. “If there proves to be a viable proposition, this will be an issue for the PSR to consider as it takes control of the strategy-setting process for the payments industry.”

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, added that richer data means that anyone making a payment could add more information about a transaction, far beyond the current 18 character limit. “This could bring a wide range of benefits, from allowing automatic invoice reconciliation for business to enabling individuals to see more information with payments they receive. Richer data could also lower the cost to the taxpayer of administering benefits and reduce losses from error and fraud,” he said.

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