Try Googling "Payments Council", at least from Australia, and the first entry you get is the UK Payments Council home page, trumpeting its Faster Payments service, its mobile to mobile payments facility "Paym" and its automated account switching service. The next four entries relate to the joint RBA/APCA consultation on, and establishment of, an Australian Payments Council, which is approaching completion with an inaugural meeting later this year. One might be forgiven for assuming that Australia is in the process of establishing the same kind of body that already exists, and appears to be doing quite a good job, in the UK. Now try Googling "Payment Systems Regulator". The first four entries relate to the UK development of a new regulator with extensive powers over retail payment systems. The fifth entry is the home page of RBA's Payments System Board, established more than 15 years ago with (rather less extensive) powers to regulate Australian payment systems. Again, one might be forgiven for assuming that the UK was in the process of establishing a regulatory framework on the long-standing and, according to the Financial System Inquiry (FSI), successful Australian model. Both these assumptions would be wrong. Beware the besetting sin of an information-rich age: analysis by search engine.
I had the honour and pleasure of recently attending and participating in the Canadian Payment Association’s Payments Panorama 2014, held this year in beautiful Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, with a mere 0.5% of the Canadian population and a total area only twice that of the Australian Capital Territory. Yet on this postage stamp gem in the Gulf of St Lawrence, some big ideas concerning the future of Canadian payments were being discussed. By way of background, Canada and Australia share many features and our payment landscapes have some similarities. Both have a long-standing national payments body and a competitive national domestic debit card scheme. Australians and Canadians are enthusiastically embracing new ways of paying, including mobile and contactless. The Government and regulators in both countries have intervened on the fractious issue of interchange fees, though Canada has adopted a more disclosure-based approach than the harder caps found in Australia.