UK Launches New Payments Regulator

A new watchdog, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), launches at the start of this month to oversee the UK’s £75 trillion (US$111trn/€103trn) a year payments industry.

The PSR plans to take control of the money transfer systems from the UK’s major high street banks and will open up access of the infrastructure underpinning financial transactions, from mobile payments to house purchases reports the
Financial Times
.

The country’s largest lenders, including the UK’s ‘big four’ of Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC, own and control the main systems, such as Faster Payments, which are used to make money transfers.

Hannah Nixon, managing director of the PSR, told the business daily that the regulator would ensure access unrestricted access to the systems. Challenger banks and digital payment businesses such as PayPal are currently charged hefty set-up costs to access the systems directly, or must pay to go through a large bank.

“We want to break open the control of payment systems, so it’s not just the big banks that control them who can use them,” Nixon confirmed to the
FT
. “We need to make sure all those who use them or need access can have a real voice in the way these things are controlled – whether it’s a challenger bank, or a payment innovator.”

The new regulator will work on allowing faster and fairer direct access to the systems and will require incumbent banks to subscribe to a code of conduct making the terms of gaining access clearer. Nixon said that if the banks do not make changes to allow more open access, the PSR has the power to intervene.

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