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Payments Council of India finalising independent bid for digital payments self-regulatory body

The Payments Council of India (PCI), an industry body for digital payment operators in the country, is in the final stages of submitting its independent application to become a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) for digital payments, under the Reserve Bank of India’s mandate, said two sources aware of the development. The PCI, which operates under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), will float a new not-for-profit entity which would serve as the SRO entity, and is looking to on-board various stakeholders and other industry associations as members apart from existing payments companies, they said on the condition of anonymity.

IAMAI and iSPIRT not teaming up

Last week, the Economic Times reported that the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the technology think-tank Indian Software Products Industry Round Table (iSpirt) are respectively preparing a bid to form an industry body that will take of self-regulating the digital payments industry. iSpirt is a Bengaluru software think-tank that is closely involved in developing the Unified Payments Interface, BHIM and the India Stack set of public-facing software programs. The article said that iSpirt could float its SRO proposal through the Digital Collective for Empowerment, another digital payments industry body.

However, people privy to internal discussions told MediaNama that iSpirt is not setting up its own not-for-profit to bid for an SRO license from the RBI. Additionally, in an email to MediaNama, Saranya Gopinath, co-founder of DICE, said that they “do not have any plans to apply for an SRO license.”

“There was an attempt by certain individuals to get some PCI members to join a separate bid for a digital payments SRO. But that did not happen. The payment company members who were initially interested are now back on-board with the PCI bid,” the first source quoted above said.

A single Self Regulatory Organisation for Payments?

The second source quoted above said that having more than 1 or 2 SROs will be chaotic. “The RBI is very clear in its guidelines that the digital payments SRO has to be filled with payment system operators as members. The SRO can have other representatives and members who are not payments companies, but are part of the larger ecosystem. This is why the PCI has a bridge with the Digital Lenders Association of India, instead of creating another vertical under the Fintech Convergence Council of the IAMAI,” this person said. The DLAI is an industry body representing digital lending companies.

According to the RBI’s Framework, issued in October 2020, the digital payments SRO has to be a not-for-profit company under the Companies Act, 2013 and only regulated payment system entities, like banks and non-bank payment system operators can be members. Among other requirements, the SRO will set minimum benchmarks, ethical and behavioural standards for the industry, inform the RBI about regulatory violations and will need to implement any work assigned to it by the central bank.

“There are a lot of activities that the RBI assigns to the PCI because it cannot micro-manage the industry. We hope that the RBI will formally give the SRO mandate to the new independent entity ,” the second person quoted above said. The PCI has approached the Indian Banks’ Association to support their application to the RBI, since banks in general are not keen on (self) regulating the payments industry themselves, this person added.

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