Below is an article from The Australian which helps to understand some of the applications for our Biometric Patents.
8 December 2020
The Payments System Board recognises that the structure of payment systems is changing. In some cases it is now better to think of a payments ecosystem, rather than a payments system. In this ecosystem, the payment chains can be longer and there are more entities involved and new technologies used. This more complex and dynamic environment is opening up new opportunities for innovation as well as new competition issues.
One of the factors driving innovation is the increasing interest of technology-focused businesses in payments. These businesses include the fintechs and the large multinational technology companies, often known as the ‘‘big techs’’. They are a source of innovation and are playing a role in the development of digital wallets. These wallets are being used more frequently and I expect this trend has a long way to go. Another trend is the increasing use of payments within an app. Big techs are playing important roles on both fronts.
This influence of the big techs is perhaps most evident in China, with Ant (owner of Alipay) and Tencent (WeChat Pay) having developed new payments infrastructure that has led to fundamental changes in how retail payments are made.
In Australia and many other countries, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are increasingly incorporating payments functionality into their service offerings. Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay are the most prominent examples of this in Australia. In some other countries the big techs are also offering person-toperson transfers and consumer credit products. Facebook also announced its Libra project.
The Apple Pay and Google Pay wallets illustrate some of the new and complex issues that are arising. These wallets are clearly valued by consumers and they will reduce industry-wide fraud costs through the use of biometric authentication (e.g. fingerprint or facial recognition). The tokenisation of the customer’s card number is also a step forward. So these wallets are a good innovation. At the same time, though, they are raising new competition issues.
One of these relates to the restriction that Apple, unlike Google, places on access to the near-field communication (NFC) technology on its devices. Many argue that this restriction limits the ability of other wallet providers to compete on these devices and that this could increase costs. This issue has recently attracted the attention of policymakers in several countries. For example, in 2019 the German parliament passed a law requiring device manufacturers to provide third parties with access to technologies (such as NFC) that support payments services. And the European Commission announced in June that it would commence a formal antitrust investigation into Apple’s restriction of third-party NFC access on the iOS platform and in September announced that it will also consider legislation on third-party access. This issue has also been raised in submissions to our review of payments system regulation, and we are watching developments in Europe and elsewhere closely.
Another issue being raised by these wallets is the value of information and data, and again we observe Google and Apple taking different approaches. Google states that it may collect information on transactions made using Google Pay, which can be used as part of providing or marketing other Google services to users. In contrast, Apple states that it does not collect transaction information that can be tied back to an individual Apple Pay user. There are also different approaches to charging transaction fees. Apple charges a fee to issuers when a transaction is made with the Apple Wallet but a similar fee is not charged by Google when transactions are made with Google Pay. It is certainly possible that these different approaches to the use of data on the one hand and access and fees on the other are linked. So there are issues to consider here too.
Beyond the issues raised by digital wallets, there are other competition issues raised by the involvement of the big tech companies in payments.
These companies are mostly platform businesses that facilitate interactions between different types of users of their platform. They have very large user bases, benefiting from strong network effects that can make it hard for competitors. Data analysis is part of their DNA and they have become increasingly effective at commercialising the value of data they collect and analyse. Providing additional services, such as payments, also reduces the need for users to ‘‘leave’’ the platform. So there are complex issues to be worked through here. One of these is the terms of access to the platform and whether the platform requires that payments be processed by the platform’s own payment system.
One specific issue raised by both digital wallets and the big techs is the nature of the protections that apply to any funds held within any new payment systems, and outside the formal banking sector. For confidence in the system and for the protection of individuals and businesses it is important that strong arrangements are in place.
In this regard, I welcome the government’s announcement that it will accept the Council of Financial Regulators’ proposed reforms of regulatory arrangements for so-called stored-value facilities. Under the proposals, APRA and ASIC will be the primary regulators, with requirements tailored to the nature of the facility. It would be possible, for example, to ‘‘designate’’ a provider of a stored-value facility as being subject to APRA prudential supervision on the basis of financial safety considerations. This could become relevant if the technology companies were to launch new payment and other products that held significant customer funds.
Dr Philip Lowe is the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. This is an extract of a speech to the Australian Payments Network delivered on Monday.