Reply to Parliamentary Question on regulations on e-payments
To ask the Prime Minister (a) how do Singapore’s regulations on e-money float compare to those of the major global financial centers; (b) what is the progress on the consultation on “user protection measures in electronic payments”; and (c) how will the Ministry protect consumer interests while ensuring Singapore’s competitiveness as an e-payments processing hub.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1 Singaporeans have a growing range of e-payment options available to them. Besides PayNow, debit cards and credit cards, stored value facilities in the form of e-wallets are gaining popularity.
2 Currently, MAS requires entities who hold a stored value float in excess of S$30 million in these stored value facilities to safeguard the float with a bank licensed by MAS.1
3 Consumers will enjoy better protection of their funds held in stored value under the Payment Services Bill (PSB) that is being introduced in Parliament today. It contains two key enhancements.
4 First, more types of stored value, or e-money, will be protected under the PSB. E-money will include not just pre-payment for goods and services such as value stored in transport cards, but also any monetary value that is held for future payment transfers between individuals. This means that the value held in e-wallets that people use to pay merchants or pay each other will also be protected in future.
5 Second, the threshold of e-money that will be protected under the PSB will be lowered from S$30 million to S$5 million. This means that any e-money held by a payment institution will be wholly safeguarded if the average daily float exceeds S$5 million.2 If the average daily float does not exceed S$5 million, the safeguarding measures will not apply, provided the payment institution makes appropriate disclosures to consumers.
6 We have sought to protect consumer interests while encouraging innovation in e-payments and ensuring Singapore’s competitiveness as a payment services hub. This requires that our regulations are proportionate to the risks. To give payment institiutions adequate flexibility, MAS will expand the options for safeguarding measures available to Major Payment Institutions, beyond the current requirement of a bank guarantee. Under the PSB, a guarantee given by a prescribed financial institution or segregation of customer monies in a bank account will be recognised as alternative safeguarding measures.3
7 These two key enhancements on the scope of e-money and options for safeguarding measures are similar to those in Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
8 To complement the measures in the PSB and existing regulations on banking services, MAS has issued the E-Payments User Protection Guidelines (the Guidelines). The Guidelines essentially aim to enhance consumer confidence in e-payments. Financial institutions and e-payment users can look to the Guidelines for (a) their respective responsibilities for ensuring secure e-payment transactions; (b) how liability for unauthorised transactions ought to be apportioned; and (c) simplified error resolution processes when a user sends money to the wrong recipient. The Guidelines were finalised in September after MAS’ public consultation earlier this year. They will take effect in January next year.
9 MAS will continue to engage both the industry and the public as the e-payments landscape evolves, so that we provide assurance to users without holding back innovations that enhance competition and efficiency in payment services.
1 Under the Payment Systems (Oversight) Act, the holder of a multi-purpose stored value facility that holds stored value above S$30 million must be approved by MAS. At the same time, a bank licensed by MAS must also undertake to be fully liable for the stored value and be approved by MAS as an approved bank in respect of that stored value facility. In this regard, users of these larger SVF schemes will benefit from the protection on their stored value. MAS does not subject holders of single-purpose stored value facilities to this requirement.
2 Only Major Payment Institutions may issue e-money with an average daily float that exceeds S$5 million.
3 Major Payment Institutions that issue e-money will be required to safeguard the relevant e-money float by having the equivalent amount:
(a) covered by an undertaking from any bank in Singapore or prescribed financial institution to be fully liable to the customer for such moneys;
(b) guaranteed by any bank in Singapore or prescribed financial institution;
(c) deposited in a trust account in such manner as may be prescribed by the Authority; or
(d) safeguarded in such other manner as may be prescribed by the Authority.
Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore